“People of the Masks” by Kathleen O’Neal Gear & W. Michael Gear

I have been a fan of this series by the Gear’s since the very first book, “People of the Wolf”.  Their ability to blend the archaeological history of the cultures with fictional plots makes their books compelling. “People of the Masks” is no exception.

Beginning with the present day, a team of archaeologists have unearthed a long buried Iroquois site. Living in the northeastern United States and into southeastern Canada, the Iroquois have a rich and fascinating history. “People of the Masks” is Book Ten of the North America’s Forgotten Past series.

Considered to be a seer and a powerful child, Rumbler is born into the Turtle Clan. Known as the False Face Child he is rumored to be the son of a wood spirit. He is a nine year old dwarf child who is the size of a four year old. In an effort to obtain his power, Jumping Badger of the Bear Clan mounts a party that destroys the boy’s village and kidnaps him. However things begin to go wrong almost immediately. Upon returning to their own village Jumping Badger and his war party begin to experience deaths. Eventually the clan matrons and villagers decide the False Face Child must die. However Wren, an orphan girl who lives with her relatives, develops a soft spot for the small child. In an effort to protect him she hatches a plan that will take them on a dangerous journey which could end in death for both of them. Meanwhile Rumbler’s village may have been destroyed but two of his relatives from another clan are determined to save him from execution by the Bear Clan.

The characters and their intense experiences, their determination to survive and do the right thing, are key to the story. Even when pursued by a madman and his frightened but cowardly war party, they struggle against the odds.

This is a stunning exploration of the challenging environments and the cultural beliefs of these early Iroquois. Along with the methods they use to carry on, this novel illustrates the skills necessary to battle weather, wild animals, and hunger.

I couldn’t put this book down as I followed the lives of the characters, fearing for their well being and cheering their successes. It’s a beautiful if somewhat painful story of strength and love set against the vivid landscape of the northeast.

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