In this first novel of his trilogy, Clayton demonstrates that the Western institutions, the Spanish military forces and the Church, werere actually more barbaric than the Indians. Though captured, and then escaped Calling Crow is the main point-of-view character in the book, Clayton bounces around the map, covering the intrigue within the Spanish camp as well. The effect of his technique is to defamiliarize the European culture, to cause us to see the invaders as the foreigners, rather than the other way around.Though Clayton's narrative delivery is occasionally a little on the stiff side, his talents are for recognizing and describing incidents which bring to life the clash between the multiple cultures at play in the novel. Just as Calling Crow's understanding of the world is different from that of the Spanish, or that of a different tribe, the objectives of the Spanish missionaries are different from those of the soldiers, and of the officials of the Inquisition.
The stories in the novel relate more to these differences of world-view than they do the development of any one particular character. Clayton clearly did much research in preparation for writing this novel and the two that followed. His telling is rich in historical detail, and establishes a believable context for the anecdotal vignettes that drive the story as a whole. Clayton has a very good sense of the scene. The episodic stories within the novel are adventures that bring out with a great deal of clarity how absurd the arrival of this highly armed flotilla must have seemed to the indigenous people. Though clearly written within the tradition of the historical adventure novel, Clayton's prose is at its best when he is getting into the particulars of individual situations, as when one Spaniard is accused by Inquisition of being a homosexual, and forced to "prove his manhood" by having sex with his wife before a crowd of priests. When he is unable to produce the necessary effect (and who could whilst surround by priests?), he is executed as a heretic. The standards of the "civilized" here are clearly not terribly civilized. At the end of the first novel of the trilogy, Calling Crow has returned to his people, who have a hard time believing in the white terrors Calling Crow describes. Like all good adventure stories, Clayton's ends leaving the reader wondering what will happen next, though in the end, of course, what will happen to the native culture is a foregone conclusion. The ones with the horses and the Inquisition will win, though it will hardly be a victory of civilization over the barbarians. More honestly, as Calling Crow illustrates, it is the barbarians who came from Europe to America; not the other way around. Savagery and greed were "civilized" Spanish traits, and not Native ones. -- Scott Rettberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.