Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley courtesy of Open Road.
Blevins’ novel traces the lift of Crazy Horse from young adult hood to his death. Unlike many writers, Blevins does not fall into the trap of making any one character or race too saintly or too demonized.
When the reader first meets Crazy Horse, he isn’t called Crazy Horse, but Curly. He is trying to find his place not only in his tribe but within himself. This first section of the novel is not quite a coming of age story but more of a feeling out who you are story, struggling to come to terms with not only a changing world, but what your duty in that world is.
The rest of the book charts both Crazy Horse’s highs and lows. The focus is on Crazy Horse and the Lakota, and in many ways it is good that Blevins does not make the Battle of Little Bighorn a central piece of the novel. Would Crazy Horse really see the battle as meriting the same importance as white Americans? Doubtful.
Perhaps the weakest part of the novel is the development of the female characters, in particular the romantic interest of Black Buffalo Woman. Her motives and reasons do not seem to be really developed. How much of her behavior is based on cultural belief and how much due to her own desire is unclear. While this does occur, when combined with her limited page time, it makes it hard to know her character let alone really care what happens to her. The same is true of Black Shawl, and Crazy Horse’s third (or second, depending upon how you count) wife hardly gets any screen time.
This weakness aside, the novel does an extremely good job of conveying the culture of the Lakota as well as the political maneuvering that occurred when the white American continued their Westward expansions (take over, chose your term). It is not a romanticized view of the West or of Native Americans and for that the book deserves much praise.