People of the Canyons: A Novel of North America’s Forgotten Past

Written by W. Michael Gear
Review by Brodie Curtis

This tale focuses on the native peoples of the Fremont, an area that was centered along the Fremont River in Utah and extended through much of the West. An aging tyrant ruler, Blessed Sun, sends his daughter Blue Dove to hire a famous witch hunter, Maicoh, to retrieve a “soul pot” that Blessed Sun believes is the magic required to release his evil soul to join his ancestors in the afterlife. A young girl, Tsilu, is caught up in the mission, and suspense builds as the soul pot travels to Blessed Sun. What power will be unleashed when the soul pot is delivered, and what are the true identities of Tsilu and her mysterious protectors?

In this richly imagined world set a century or so before European settlers arrived, characters are acutely sensitive to the natural world and connect with the spiritual and mystical, rather than the material. Red walls, shadows, flickering flames, and the cracks and crevices of the canyons seem a perfect backdrop for the dangers and sometime beauties of Blue Dove’s, Maicoh’s, and Tsilu’s journey to Blessed Sun. Impressionistic descriptions like “cracks in the light” and how “night seeps through the air like cold gray mist” give us a sense that their world was very unlike ours is today.

People of the Canyons is the twenty-third novel in the North America’s Forgotten Past series, which recreates a world of native peoples before recorded history, from 13,000 BCE to 1400 CE. The wife-husband bestselling author team’s tales are rooted in archaeology and their expertise, and cast with the cloak of the spirit world that might have dominated the Americas before cities and railroads and roads pushed from coast to coast.