Battle for America: Fire the Sky; W. Michael Gear & Kathleen O’Neal Gear, 2010; Gallery Books
Fire in the sky is the second novel in Gear & Gear’s “The Battle for America” series. Just as with the first book “Coming of the Storm”, the authors have done a remarkable job of drawing this reader into the social, political, spiritual and geo-agricultural life of the Native American Indian. And even though the book is a fictional archology of the history and culture of Indigenous Americans during the time Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto and his mercenaries landed in Central America, it is never the less a great historical read.
By creating characters like Black Shell and Pearl Hand who, as nomadic traders, would have had inside knowledge about numerous tribes, their politics, trade, geographical terrain and cultural differences, Gear and Gear have woven a very credible story. My only complaint is that historically, it is depressing to realize that it was simply the Native American’s ignorance of Spanish iron and horses that became the crippling force behind de Soto’s unstoppable success: that and the fact that he just flat-out fought dirty.
Another aspect of Gear and Gear’s authorship that I appreciate is the way they centered the conflict around the spiritual beliefs that would have been indelibly embedded within both the Native American and Spanish culture. Not because I think every novel needs to have that factor within it, but in this case its important to realize how integral to the overall story it is that both cultures were, and to some extent still are, heavily influenced by their spiritual beliefs. If we remember our history, one of the greatest religious persecutions in antiquity finds its roots in the Spanish Inquisition, and therefore important to the overall justification of conquer and conquered, that de Soto and his mercenaries would have felt while massacring thousands of people who did not worship or perceive the spirit realm in the same manner as themselves. In their minds, any race that wasn’t Catholic would have been considered devils, demon worshippers, and therefore deserving of subjugation and death.
On my reader scale of one to five stars, I’m giving “Fire the Sky” 3.5 stars for overall story, and 4 for historical integrity.