In 1867, the transcontinental railroad is beginning to traverse the western plains. Fourteen-year old Will Braddock, recently orphaned in Iowa, is positioned to become a blacksmith’s apprentice, much to his chagrin. He runs away to the West to join the Union Pacific railroad work crews and meet his uncle, hoping he will take him on and raise him. Upon his arrival, he meets Union Pacific’s chief engineer, General Dodge, who then takes him to his uncle. His uncle decides to let Will temporarily stay with him. Will meets a young girl named Jenny, traveling with a wagon train to Oregon, an English-speaking Cheyenne named Lone Eagle, and a young Irishman named Paddy O’Hannigan, who has a vendetta against Will and his uncle.
This book, the author’s debut, is the first novel in the Iron Horse Chronicles trilogy. He has mixed fictional and historical characters with great success by adding depth to their character descriptions. The novel is rich in historical detail about the early transcontinental railroad and the Hell on Wheels, a temporary community that would follow the construction of the railroad. I look forward to his next book.