Language of the Bear – Tomahawk and Saber – Volume One. Evan Ronan and Nathaniel Green. Calhoun Publishing. July 2015. 260 pp. ISBN#: 9780996495800.
An English soldier, Lieutenant Hugh Pike, and a Native American Susquehannock warrior, Wolf Tongue (named as Isaac for a Christian name although he is clearly not a Christian), are thrown together on a mission. They are both disconcerted by the ultimate act they must commit – the assassination of a violent, capable killer who is trying to recruit fighters to defeat the English. Sounds simple, but it’s anything but easy!
To begin with both men have asked for a prize for the risk and completion of their task, a beloved lady – Damaris and Fox’s Smile respectively – each will wed after completing their job. But their task is an almost impossible one in which they will encounter and perhaps survive every possible danger in the Pennsylvania mountains and country. Their goal in this first of what will be a series is to find and deal with a man named Azariah or Storm-of-Villages.
What is fascinating, as this novel progresses are three aspects. One is the description of the beautiful land Pike and Wolf Tongue traverse, sometimes easily and sometimes with great challenges like climbing cliffs and fording fiercely moving rivers. One can almost smell the turning colors of leaves and pine of the forests. Both men are rugged enough to clear paths and camp comfortably even in the fiercest of cold weather.
The second intriguing portion is that Azariah actually has many supporters who believe in his mission to be rid of the English and restore the land to its native status. His charisma and cruelty bring his supporters to unbridled obedience and fear and it is believed that he is unconquerable.
Friends are really foes and vice versa in this plot that grows complicated because of our main characters never knowing who can be trusted and the crafty movements of their enemy.
The third engaging aspect is the relationship that develops between Pike and Wolf Tongue which includes what they truly believe. That difference both divides and eventually unites them. As they journey back and forth between their home territory and that of Azariah, they develop a friendship that will endure physical wounds, struggle in the territory that is untamed and their wavering, private reflections between courage and doubt.
All in all, Language of the Bear is a terrific read whose fans will be looking forward to the next novel in this story of pre-Revolutionary colonials and Native American residents. Nicely crafted, Ronan and Green!