This is a novel of the War of 1812. Elizabeth Kincaid and her mother are captured on the Ohio River by Shawnee raiders, led by Tecumseh. Elizabeth’s visions earn her a certain amount of respect from some of the Shawnee, but Tecumseh’s brother Tenskwatawa accuses Elizabeth of conjuring the Evil One. Frontiersman Will Douglas, who was raised among the Pawnee, agrees to run the gauntlet in order to free Elizabeth. He is barely successful, and they are allowed to leave for his home in Kentucky.
Elizabeth is shocked to find that Will expects her to live with him without an official wedding—there is a crucial shortage of clergy on the frontier—and also that he has obligations to support the wife and son of his blood brother among the Pawnee. She is tried further when Will leaves to join the Indians led by Tecumseh to fight the Americans. After the failed attack on Ft. Wayne, Tecumseh releases Will to go back to Elizabeth, but he is barely home before the Americans forcibly take him to serve as a scout. Now Will has enemies on both sides of the conflict.
Larson did extensive research, judging by her 31-item bibliography. There are some powerful scenes, such as Will’s torture at Tenskwatawa’s hands, but the book needs more polishing to raise it above run-of-the-mill. Errors abound of the type that spell-checkers don’t catch, such as a frightened character “shuttering,” or “aide” used as a verb. The battle scenes are all long stretches of dialogue-free narrative, which slows the action down, just when the reader would expect more excitement, not less. Tenskwatawa is presented as an unrelentingly evil character, with no redeeming qualities. But with further revisions to fix these problems, Memories Trail has the potential to rise above the pack.