Review – J. Bradley Van Tighem’s PUHA
Puha, the first in a series of books called The Master of the Wild, centres around two main characters. The first is Many Wolves, a young white boy whose parents are killed in a raid and who grows up as part of the Lipan Apaches, learning the ways of the tribe before setting forth on his own, with only his dog and three Wolf Hawks for company until he meets a stranger who is to become a friend. The second is Laughing Crow, fearless leader of the raiding party of Nokoni Comanche that killed Many Wolves’ parents and intent on gathering as much land, horses and slaves as he can muster. Their stories intertwine along the way, first with the raiding party where Many Wolves’ parents are killed, then on to the event that leads to Many Wolves to flee his own tribe for the safety of all and on, years later, to a final confrontation borne out of murder and revenge.
This is not a quick read but is a completely immersing book. Richly described environments and wonderful characterisation make it easy to lose several hours at a time in the Texan deserts. The story itself, although not all action, has enough going on to drive the narrative forward while still retaining a high level of detail that make it play out like a film in your head. I enjoyed following the story of Many Wolves more, from him growing up in the tribe and getting his new name to training his hawks and venturing forth on his own, finding friends and mentors along the way. It is a fascinating insight into a cultural background I don’t know a lot about but everything written feels well researched so is believable. Having said that, the backstory of Laughing Crow is also essential to the book as it charts his resurgence to power, after banishment from his own tribe, through his raids and battles while still managing to bring out his humanity, both the good and the bad, as he deals with his new band, which was particularly evident with the deaths, first of a close friend’s family and then of one of his own. The lead up to the final showdown between the two was incredibly well written. From the first of the killings until the endgame was evident, the tension and suspense built at every step as you wondered about everyone’s safety next move.
As I said this is not a quick book to read but if you are keen on folk tales, exploring the traditions of the Native Americans at that time in history, or even just a really good coming of age story, it is definitely worth the effort.
***** 5 STARS!