Aurora Crossing

Written by Karl H. Schlesier
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

This novel is a fictionalized account of the Nez Perce War of 1877. Eventually forced to leave Oregon, over 800 Nez Perce Indians travel over a thousand miles to escape and reach Canada. The American military, led by General Oliver Otis Howard, pursues and tries to capture the tribe and return them to their designated reservation in Idaho. The protagonist in this tale is John Seton, a young Indian who is responsible for herding the horses during the miles of steep mountains, rocky trails and raging rivers. A peaceful tribe, many of the Nez Perce had already been moved to reservations in the Northwest. A series of unfortunate events led to the death of both Indians and soldiers, which caused the short war to begin.

In his narrative, the author does a very good job of describing the life and travails of the Nez Perce as they were in flight. Actually, much of the novel reads like a non-fiction account of the interactions between the U.S. military and the Indians. There is little dialog in the story and, though the major characters are mentioned and described in detail, there is little interaction between them. The main character is rarely involved in the military action, except at the end of the novel; therefore the events were heard about or described by others, which I thought made the reading very dull. I recently read Terry C. Johnston’s Cries From the Earth, which was a much better written account of the Nez Perce War and which I would recommend over this novel. Mr. Schlesier would have done better to write a non-fiction narrative of the war.