The Real People Series
Individual titles are: The Way of the Priests (ISBN 0806132728), The Dark Way (0806132736), The White Path (0806132744), The Way South (0806132752), The Long Way Home (0806132760), The Dark Island (0806132779) and The War Trail North (0806132787)
These seven books describe various incidents in the history of the Cherokee Nation who call themselves “The Real People” in their own language. They are set during the 16th century and tell how the priests rise to power and become corrupt only to be overthrown by the angry populace. Conquistadors arrive and the inevitable clash happens although the powerful Cherokee Nation manages to send them packing. The French come as traders and there are skirmishes with other neighboring tribes. The role of women is of great importance – virtually equal with men. Among the Cherokees, women fight and win battle honors, own houses and make decisions. All of this describes too baldly some of the plots of these seven books, but conveys nothing as to what makes them so vastly enjoyable and compulsively readable.
Conley is highly adept at describing the world from the Native American point of view and contrasting it with that of the Spanish. He packs a lot of story into a short novel, and every one of these books is a real page-turner. He has a way of writing that made me think of folktales, a simple straightforward style that suits the material and somehow conveys the Cherokee way of life with its perceptions and lack of artifice. Legends are threaded through the narratives of the rabbit Jisdu and his trickster ways (one of the archetypes of Brer Rabbit), and the reader will learn much about the traditional Cherokee way of life.
If you enjoy reading about this period, then I can recommend this series for its perceptions about Native Americans, likeable characters and plainly told but exciting stories. When I put down the last one I felt quite bereft that there was no book eight; it was as though I was leaving a place and people amongst which I had been happy. Highly recommended.