White Eagle's Touch

Night Thunder’s Bride by Karen Kay
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-80339-9
Karen Kay has produced another novel about the Blackfoot Tribes of the Northwest Territory during the 1830’s. Rebecca Cothern, impoverished attendant to the heroine of Kay’s prior Blackfoot novel, White Eagle’s Touch, comes under the protection of Night Thunder, a Pikuni warrior. One could repeat much of the review of White Eagle’s Touch here without doing an injustice to Night Thunder’s Bride.

Night Thunder has promised his friend White Eagle to guard Rebecca. But one day while he is away hunting, she walks alone outside the fort to gather berries and flowers, heedless of a nearby Blackfoot war party. She is captured by Strikes the Bear, whose wife was recently raped and killed by Whites.

Night Thunder discovers her absence and tries to rescue her. Manacled, she awaits torture and certain death, showing courage while bemoaning never seeing her parents’ beloved Ireland nor experiencing a ball in her honor. Though Strikes the Bear is not of Night Thunder’s tribe, they are related, creating a dilemma.

He cannot charge in trying to free her by force, so he comes up with a ruse. Though Night Thunder anticipates a future atoning for this lie, he claims that Rebecca is his wife. Strikes the Bear wants revenge and is reluctant to relinquish her. He reminds Night Thunder of Blue Raven Woman, whom he is pledged to marry. Apparently, Night Thunder forgot his fiancée in his desperation to come up with a plan to save Rebecca.

Strikes the Bear engages in a lie of his own, assuring Night Thunder he intends to scare her only, then to marry her himself. Luckily, an elder in Strikes the Bear’s group mediates or this dialogue might have gone on forever.

A solution is found in acceptance of Night Thunder’s claiming Rebecca as his wife. More negotiations lead to Rebecca accompanying him back to his camp rather than his taking her back to the fort. In the course of their journey and the time with his tribe, Rebecca comes to love most things Blackfoot including Night Thunder. He wants her to become his “sits beside him woman,” but she puts her foot down about sharing her man with Blue Raven Woman. After a Medicine Man discloses her special nature, Night Thunder resolves to have her alone. They never discuss this, and while he is recovering from a wound, she steals away and returns to Fort Union.

Unfortunately, Karen Kay’s story is not on a par with her grasp of her subject. The main characters are shallow, two-dimensional, and the storyline is weak. The dialogue between Rebecca and Night Thunder is an on-going lesson in Blackfoot culture and mores but stilted, stiff and forced. The flow is not helped by Kay’s desire to educate her reader by sharing a few basic words in Night Thunder’s native tongue. After the first few times some character says “Aa, yes . . .” or “Saa, no . . .” I get the idea without needing the combination repeated over and over.

Did I mention the three pages if takes for Rebecca to decide to eat a bit of buffalo to please the group who went out early in the morning to find food for them? Karen Kay created a truly noble man in Night Thunder, but Rebecca is a dunderhead, a chatty simpleton.

She is too dense to understand comparisons Night Thunder makes between actions of the Whites and Strikes the Bear’s attempt at avenging his wife’s death and too silly to be quiet when he repeatedly admonishes her that her interrupting his negotiating with Strikes the Bear places both of them more at risk. Ultimately. I could not understand or accept Night Thunder’s attraction to Rebecca.

I could only recommend Night Thunder’s Bride to those who have read the earlier book and may want to follow the lives of a few characters, or to readers who opt to learn via fiction the mores and interrelationships of various Blackfoot tribes.

Ultimately, Rebecca gets her man and her dance as well. Ah, the nature of true romance in the old West.

--Sue Klock

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