2 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
High Plains Fort by A.H. Holt is a historical fiction novel that is set in the early 1800s. It is perfect for anyone who loves character-driven stories that have history, action, and a tinge of romance in it. Justin Tolliver, a twenty-one-year-old South Carolinian, is at the center of the story. After having a dispute with his father about how to handle the plantation slaves, Justin sets out on his own to establish a name for himself. His intention is to move out west and make enough money to provide for his soon-to-be bride, Amelia, to come and join him. Throughout the book, Justin and Amelia correspond by letters and discuss their circumstances in their respective places. Along the way, Justin encounters thieves, murderers, and Indians that make his journey adventurous. And in gaining enemies, making it dangerous too. His eventual destination in the book is a trading post called Bent’s Fort, where his job is Chief Clerk and commanding the day-to-day business. When nefarious white men and Comanches attack the Fort, can Justin help defend it? Will he ever see his Amelia again?
Bent’s Fort was on the Santa Fe Trail and functioned as a trading post for the wagon trains passing through. The Fort provided a much-needed rest for the weary worn travelers as they headed out further west. Indian tribes traded there, but they were not allowed to stay inside the fort at night unless they worked there. Holt has the founders of the Fort, Ceran St. Vrain and William and Charles Bent, make appearances in the story. I had never heard of this piece of history until this book and it fascinated me with the complex operations that go on inside the complex. Holt does an admirable job interweaving history with fiction so that neither one is overshadowing the other. From the description of the Fort to the mentality of folks going out west to start a new life, I thought, was detailed but never overwhelming. The history enhanced the storyline but never hindered it. I have even now put Bent’s Fort on my must visit list.
High Plains Fort is a tale of the American Dream. Justin wishes to make something of himself, not by his family’s prominent name, but by his hard work. His evolving nature is one highlight of the book. The narrative follows Justin’s adventures mostly, but periodically we receive a glimpse into one of the other character’s life. My favorite is Jose, an older Hispanic man, who was an ex-slave with a troubled and tragic past. He leads a life of brutality for the excitement and money until he meets a woman who convinces him to settle down. With her untimely death, Jose falls into violence again. His personality is flawed, but it shows how human he is. The anger about his past and his feelings of hopelessness is relatable. Jose uses his violent past to be an integral part in helping Justin defend the Fort.
If you are looking for more specifics in the action, you will need to look somewhere else. The battle scenes are what I call "shaded around the edges". They are told just enough for you to get what's going on without depicting all the grisly details. I appreciated this, and the clean language that his characters used.
My main criticism of High Plains Fort is the editing. Almost in every chapter were grammatical errors, missing, or misspelled words. Sometimes the wrong character’s name was used. Also, the constant switching in the first and third person point of view was an issue. The book is written in the third person but quickly shifts to first. And then back again to third. In fact, in one sentence alone, both point of views were used in illustrating an incident at the Fort. To top all this off is Holt’s varying methods of delineating when someone is thinking. Sometimes quotations were used. Sometimes italics. And sometimes nothing at all, making the thoughts blend in with the rest of the story. It became a guessing game if someone was thinking it or saying it.
I struggled with the rating because the story was not awful. Overall, I liked it, but with the many errors it had, I must rate the book as 2 out of 4 stars. With the proper editing, this book could be a gem on someone’s bookshelf.
High Plains Fort
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon
Like melissy370's review? Post a comment saying so!