Judd Cole,
Cheyenne #1: Arrow Keeper
(Leisure, 1992)

Arrow Keeper is the first book in the Cheyenne series. This series is about a Cheyenne who struggles to overcome his white upbringing and to fit in with his own people, who view him with as much distrust as they have for the whites.

The story begins in 1840 when a group of cavalry soldiers slaughter the peace chief, Running Antelope, and his wife, Lotus Petal. The soldiers take the chief's baby boy back to the settlement by the fort, Bighorn Falls. The boy is raised as Matthew Hanchon, son of John and Sarah Hanchon, who own the mercantile store.

Matthew is always treated differently because he is an Indian, but it becomes unbearable when he turns 16 and falls in love with Kristen Steele, daughter of the richest man around. Of course, the father forbids his daughter to see Matthew again and she agrees that she does not want to see him. The ranch foreman beats Matthew and promises to kill him if he sees him again. Then a soldier from the fort comes to threaten him in a different way. The fort is Hiram's biggest customer. If he loses their business, he cannot survive.

Heartbroken over Kristen's betrayal and tired of being humiliated because he is an Indian, Matthew decides to go live with his real people. But all his adopted parents will tell him is that he is a Cheyenne. They never knew who his parents were and the soldier who brought him to them is long gone. Away he rides to find his people.

When he does encounter his people, they vote to kill him as a spy. He is rescued by the tribal medicine man, Arrow Keeper, who had a vision of his return and his rise to chiefdom. The shaman knows that this is the last hope of his people. But will Matthew be able to learn the Indian ways and overcome his handicaps from life among the whites? Will his sworn Cheyenne enemies within the tribe kill him?

This book was a fast read for me. I finished it in no time and was left wanting the next book in the series. Cole has a vividly descriptive writing style that engages all of your senses. When the Cheyenne are torturing Matthew, the description of the burning flesh is so detailed that you will imagine you smell it. Cole goes that extra mile to get you involved in the story. His tactic is successful because you cannot put this book down until you reach the end -- a disappointing thing unless you have the next installment ready to read.

The character development is extreme. These people grow steadily in depth and dimension, becoming people that you really care about. You need to know what happens to them.

The author has done his research. This book is like a cultural study of the Cheyenne. As Matthew learns the Cheyenne way, so does the reader.

Cole ranks right up there with Tony Hillerman for ability to spin an Indian tale. Cheyenne: Arrow Keeper is a marvelous read that will leave you rolling on the floor and wanting the next book. My only complaint is that it goes by too quickly once you get into it. It is a spectacular adventure with the peoples of the northern Plains.

book review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

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