Love by Chocolate

Love Me Tomorrow

Love's Bounty

Mystic Dreamer

Texas' Embrace

Mystic Warriors by Rosanne Bittner
(Forge, $24.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-312-86-513-9
My four-heart recommendation for this book is not only a recommendation for this particular title but for the authorís Mystic trilogy as a whole. For those readers who like me rarely read - in fact, try to avoid - the traditional American Indian romance because the characters and plots are so wildly unrealistic, this series is a welcome change. Here there are no innocent white virgins ogling broad Indian chests or bold Indian braves getting the hots for pale maidens with hair-like-sunlight. These three books are written almost exclusively from the native perspective - Indian traditions and beliefs are the norm; white behavior is foreign and often inexplicable.

I do want to warn readers who are unfamiliar with the series that this third book is not the one to begin with. Because the series builds with each installment, readers would be advised to begin with the first book, Mystic Dreamers, or at least the second, Mystic Visions. By Mystic Warriors, the third title, many of the characters and situations are already established, and new readers may find themselves occasionally confused without necessary background information.

The book is set in the mid-19th century; its two principal characters are Rising Eagle, a feared Lakota (Sioux) Indian leader, and his wife, Buffalo Dreamer, a revered holy woman. Buffalo Dreamer has long had the skin of the sacred white buffalo; as long as it remains in her possession, all will be well with the Lakota. When four white trappers steal the buffalo skin, bad luck will haunt anyone who owns it.

Chief among the concerns of the Lakota is the inexorable intrusion of the whites into Indian lands. One of the sons of Rising Eagle and Buffalo Dreamer is the close friend of Crazy Horse. Rising Eagle had foreseen the coming of Crazy Horse and hopes that united under his leadership the Lakota will defeat the white forces and turn back the tide of settlers and soldiers who jeopardize the lands and very lives of the Lakota people.

Mystic Warriors also casts an unusual - and welcome - slant on the long relationship of the main characters. In the first book, Rising Eagle and Buffalo Dreamer meet, marry, and finally fall in love. In the succeeding two books, their love endures. In many romance novels, older couples seem passionless and settled into a bland routine. Monogamy means monotony. Not so with Rising Eagle and Buffalo Dreamer. Even in their later years, the fire and desire still burn brightly. The challenges they face as a couple are due to outside forces not to a lack of commitment to each other. Itís gratifying to find a book that doesnít reserve romance exclusively for the young.

From a 21st century viewpoint, reading this novel can be a bittersweet experience. The author has successfully and sympathetically portrayed the Lakota people and their culture; readers cannot help but feel regret that even the recovery of the white buffalo skin will not secure an ultimate victory for them. Nevertheless, the Mystic series is one I can recommend to readers who are looking for books that donít conform to the standard Indian romance formula. I think others will find them satisfying and memorable as I did.

--Lesley Dunlap

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