During the US Civil War, Callum, an orphaned Irish immigrant, runs afoul of his commanding officer when he deserts to rescue a young woman, Ava. When the officer is slain by Union soldiers while attempting to retrieve Callum, the marauding band which makes up his forces takes up the chase, believing Callum to be the killer. With a massive bounty on his head and with a horse named Reiver for companionship, Callum must flee before them to keep Ava out of harm’s way. With a merciless bounty hunter and killer dogs on their heels, Callum and Ava must rely not only on their wit and grit, but also on the kindness of strangers to see them to safety.
Despite the fact that this is Taylor Brown’s debut novel, the sophistication and maturity of the writing speak to the talents of an experienced writer. Though the pacing is halting at times, the narrative is compelling, and the prose is both evocative and literary in feel, despite being a shorter novel. Brown pulls no punches in revealing not only the ugliness of war, but also the depravations of the Confederate rangers as they roam the countryside in the wake of Sherman’s march to the sea in pursuit of Callum and Ava. The characters are fleshed out and memorable, including brief, poignant encounters with bootleggers, newly freed slaves, and Union surgeons. Recommended for fans of literary novels and Westerns.