The Long Knives Are Crying
This second book in Joseph Marshall’s Lakota Westerns series tells the story of Custer’s Last Stand from the Lakota viewpoint. Opening with John Richard Cloud, an old man in 1920, we see the epic 1875 battle through his eyes as he revisits the site on a trip with his daughters and grandson. Cloud recounts the Lakota unease with the incursion of the white man, and the building tension as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull decide they must reclaim their land. Cloud is a key player in the tale, standing alongside Crazy Horse as the fight is planned and carried out in a time when the Lakota way of life was rapidly disappearing.
Having not read the first novel in the series, I felt at a distinct disadvantage in the beginning pages of this book. The names and places came fast and furious, and I often had to reread passages to understand relationships. However, once I got into the rhythm of the story I found myself brought into the Lakota world; Marshall does a superb job of showing how difficult things were becoming for the Lakota as their land was overtaken and the buffalo herds disappeared. The white man does not come off well in any instance in this novel, but since it’s meant to be seen from a Native American point of view, that is understandable. The dialogue is very stilted, however; it seemed that Marshall tried overly hard to give the Lakota a strong way of speaking, but it felt forced to me. At times the story did drag, and there was a major coincidence I found hard to believe. Overall, though, this is a unique and interesting perspective on a battle that I knew little about.