From Publishers Weekly
In this languidly paced historical set in 1840, Selena Cott is a young astronomer on a mission: to be the first scientist, man or woman, to photograph (or rather daguerreotype) a total solar eclipse. She joins an expedition setting out along the Santa Fe Trail, its stated purpose to prove that the eccentric genius Charles Babbage's "difference engine," a mechanical computer prototype, can reliably calculate the exact latitude of an eclipse. Selena is an American, but she was raised a tomboy in France by her sea captain father, and she brings to her frontier adventure a cultured European manner coupled with progressive attitudes about a woman's place in the world. This sets her at odds with the chauvinistic explorers on the expedition, chief among them William Henshaw Pryce, Charles Babbage's financial adviser. Pryce has a secret (and nefarious) plan to locate the remains of Babbage's fabulously wealthy great uncle Richard and claim the inheritance that remains intestate in England years after the old geezer's disappearance in America. Selena braves desert rigors, the condescension and perfidy of her colleagues, and savage Native Americans in her race toward the first scientifically recorded total eclipse in the American Southwest. While Byrd tacks on a mystery and thriller subplot at the end to create a semblance of tension, the book is mostly an engaging travelogue along the old Santa Fe Trail, served up with plenty of authentic frontier detail and enough lessons in early 19th-century navigation to satisfy the most clueless bushwhacker as to his or her exact longitude and latitude.
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"An engaging travelogue along the old Santa Fe Trail, served up with plenty of authentic frontier detail."
"Full of insights and laced with subtle humor.... The author shows us every detail of the trip, from the attitudes of the day to how to find water in desert sand and preparations for a Kiowa Sun Dance."
--The Denver Post