Thanks to Valerie at Hachette for providing this book to me for review!
When I had the chance to read and review this book, I was excited. I’d just finished Drood by this author and loved it. I wasn’t sure what the Black Hills was about but the author’s storytelling style is so great that I just knew I would find the topic interesting. Nevertheless, before I said yes to the review, I did some research to find out more. It turned this novel couldn’t have been more different from Drood! To be capable of writing on two such diverse topics and in such an in-depth style just solidifies my certainty that Dan Simmons is one great writer.
Black Hills is not only a place in the Dakotas but also a person, Paha Sapa, a young Lakota boy growing into manhood who witnesses the changes to his home as North America moves inexorably into the twentieth century. Progress, which often doesn’t translate into a good thing, can’t be stopped. Black Hills, the place and the person, shows how a people cope and sometimes how they don’t.
It took me about fifty pages before I started really getting into the story but after that the plot became very interesting. There is one scene where the characters are caught in a huge dust storm and the manner in which the author described it made me feel like I needed to spit grit out of my own mouth. The narrative is well-written (which is something I was taking for granted even before I started reading given how Drood was written) and the imagery breath-taking. The story goes back and forth in time following the main character’s experiences with his tribe, General George Armstrong Custer and other military and native warriors, as well as at Chicago’s World Fair in the late 1800’s, and other settings. I’m amazed at the amount of research the author must have done to get just the right sense of authenticity to make the story work. The rituals of Native Americans of the Sioux tribe are described with striking beauty and sensitivity.
I don’t think I would have picked up this book on my own, but now I’m so glad I did read it. I learned much and enjoyed a great story at the same time. In the end it’s just what I expected to experience with this author. I’m a confirmed ‘Simmonite’! I highly recommend Black Hills to anyone who enjoys American history or, for that matter, just a really good story.