Book Review: Burning Sky: A Novel of the American Frontier by Lori Benton
Burning Sky: A Novel of the American Frontier by Lori Benton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Read Chapter One
When Willa Obenchain is kidnapped by Indians at the age of fourteen, she expects to never see her parents again. She adapts to her new culture with the Wolf Clan, her new life. She even eventually marries and has children. Then, in practically the blink of an eye, she loses everything and is left adrift. She has two choices. She can either follow join the Wolf Clan at Niagara where the British soldiers have promised refuse. Or she can return home to the parents she hasn't seen in twelve years. She chooses the latter and is on that journey home that she meets Neil MacGregor, a scientist/botanist who is cataloging the flora of the American frontier. Despite all of Willa's hopes that her family might still be where she left them, she finds her former home vacant. The townspeople do not trust her, and the man she once cared for as a young girl just beginning to blush into womanhood has turned into a man she does not recognize. Willa must choose her identity. Is she Willa Obenchain, the daughter of German immigrants? Or is she Burning Sky, the Mohawk maiden? Her clan brother, Joseph Tames-His-Horse, desperately wants her to return to the Wolf Clan, but the decision must be Willa's. Fortunately for her, she does not make it alone because God stands at her side.
I'm not sure what I expected when I picked up this book, but it certainly wasn't what Lori Benton delivered. Once I started reading "Burning Sky" I could hardly put it down. I finished the last 100 pages well into the wee hours one night because I could not stop reading, even knowing I had to go to work the next day. Ms. Benton has a distinct knack for storytelling. In the hands of any other writer, this same story might be flat or even mundane. But Ms. Benton brings Willa's tale to glorious life. Her writing style is reminiscent of classical authors, but without being overdone. She simply knows how much to describe and what to leave to the imagination.
The main characters are deliciously realistic. I struggle with most heroines of historic fiction, but not so with Willa. She is a tormented soul who has suffered much and lost much. She is a confused member of two distinctly different worlds. I sympathize with Willa, feel her pain, want to heal her, and above all, I want her to love again. Neil is also relatable. He is a compassionate Scotsman who loves Willa almost from the very beginning. He stands by her even when no one else will, and he defends her even if it means he might get hurt in the process. He is a loving, decent man. Which is what makes the story almost painful for me because I love Joseph Tames-His-Horse. It's not that I dislike Neil, only that I love Joseph and Burning Sky together. I know why Willa made her choices. I understand her logic, but a part of me still wishes for a different outcome.
I know that Ms. Benton has a contract for another book by Waterbrook. I hope this 2nd book will not be her last because I haven't loved a historic author this much in a long time. Most of the historic books I read receive 4 stars because they're good, maybe even great, but Ms. Benton has a blessed touch with her writing that makes me salivate for her second novel. I pray that recreates the same magical prose she has mastered with "Burning Sky."
- I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.