The Summoning God
The Gears are well known for their award-winning novels about Native Americans and in their latest series have turned their attention to the Anasazi. In the present day archaeologists are endeavouring to piece together a picture from what they find on the site. It is a grim find indeed, for the evidence suggests that a large group of children and adults were burned alive in their kiva (ceremonial chamber) as well as hints of cannibalism and torture. Meanwhile back in the 13th century it is a dark time for the Anasazi who are in the middle of a religious war. There is a serial killer on the loose and his (or is it a woman?) victims don’t die quickly or easily. War Chief Browser and his associate Catkin are on the trail of a legendary witch called Two Hearts who is leaving a long trail of torture-murders behind him. Time is running out, and every day more people are falling victim…
I have long been a fan of the Gears’ novels, and this one was received with great eagerness. They successfully conjure up a time when people didn’t know whether they would survive to see another sunrise or whether they would fall victim to religious differences, slavery, starvation and even cannibalism. The characters of Long Tail Village seem to fall into two groups – very good folk who you would gladly have as neighbors and black-hearted villains without a lot of shading in between. The present-day archaeologists are the usual type of investigators with turbulent pasts who are striking sparks off each other as they dig and delve. This digging and delving would have had a lot more impact if the book had started and finished with it instead of stopping what is a very exciting (even if it could stand some editing) whodunit every other chapter. At times it is rather akin to flipping backwards and forwards between Millennium and Time Team – an uneasy combination that makes the story lose momentum. I would warn potential readers that it is very much a sequel to The Visitant, the first book in the series, and also that it is certainly not for the squeamish.
What does shine through is the tremendous love and respect the Gears have for the Native American people: past, present and future. It is this that redeems its faults, carries it along and makes it memorable. Yes, it is politically correct, but in a genuine way rather than something painted on afterwards to make it acceptable. All in all, a mixed bag but plenty in it to interest and absorb – not forgetting the exhaustive section at the end of books on the Anasazi.