Winds Across Beringia
Fifteen thousand years ago, the world was very different. Mammoths and other great mammals that are now extinct roamed the northern reaches of North America and Asia, and the people who hunted them lived different lives than any of us can know. Today, we have only hints of who they might have been and what they might have done. Archaeologists, like the author Benjamin Barnette, can look at these hints and piece them together into a narrative for those of us curious to know more about ancient humans. Most often their findings and theories are presented in documentaries or scientific papers, but Dr. Barnette chose to breathe life into his mammoth hunters and present bits of what could have been their lives in a novel. While we have no way of knowing if Harjo and Onna (or anyone like them) might have really existed or done what they did, their stories give us a human example of what life was like during those days.
Harjo is a young mammoth hunter whose true story begins when he sets out on a trading expedition to the coast. He brings mammoth hide with him, eager to open trade for seal pelts or other goods they might have available. What he finds is far more than he ever expected. He catches the eye of a foreign woman, who is kept as a slave by one of the men he trades with, and soon after leaving, he finds that she has followed him in the hope for a better life. Harjo agrees to bring her back to his people, and the two soon form a strong bond that turns them from friends to lovers. Onna proves to be more than just a romantic interest. She is a woman who knows her own mind and will stay by Harjo’s side through thick and thin.
Harjo’s growth from youth to man is compelling, especially when paired with Onna’s story, but where the book truly shines is in the details. I went into this book expecting an adventure story, but came out vastly more knowledgeable about early humans than I had ever thought I would be. Dr. Barnette’s expertise shows in every page, bringing the world to life with rich detail; this is is a perfect example of why historians should write more fiction.
The heavy amounts of detail are unfortunately as much a hindrance as a help to the book. At times I felt as though I was reading the transcript of a documentary rather than fiction, and casual readers may find themselves skimming long descriptions of dwellings or mammoth hide being treated. The book will definitely appeal more to those already interested in such things, but they will find a real treat in these pages.
After editing at City Book Review for a few years, I took up the duties of editorial assistant, which include assigning books for review, posting reviews to our various sites, and nagging reviewers for things. In my non-nagging time, I’m a gamer, artist, writer, and notorious black thumb/bane of plants. My answer to every book-related question: read Octavia Butler.
|Author||Benjamin H. Barnette|
|Page Count||322 pages|
|Publisher||Mill City Press|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|