Author: Michael Punke
Published by: Henry Holt and Co. on Jun. 1, 2021
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: ARC, Paperback
Source: Henry Holt and Co.
Book Rating: 10/10
In 1866, with the country barely recovered from the Civil War, new war breaks out on the western frontier–a clash of cultures between a young, ambitious nation and the Native tribes who have lived on the land for centuries. Colonel Henry Carrington arrives in Wyoming’s Powder River Valley to lead the US Army in defending the opening of a new road for gold miners and settlers. Carrington intends to build a fort in the middle of critical hunting grounds, the home of the Lakota. Red Cloud, one of the Lakota’s most respected chiefs, and Crazy Horse, a young but visionary warrior, understand full well the implications of this invasion. For the Lakota, the stakes are their home, their culture, their lives.
As fall bleeds into winter, Crazy Horse leads a small war party that confronts Colonel Carrington’s soldiers with near constant attacks. Red Cloud, meanwhile, seeks to build the tribal alliances that he knows will be necessary to defeat the soldiers. Colonel Carrington seeks to hold together a US Army beset with internal discord. Carrington’s officers are skeptical of their commander’s strategy, none more so than Lieutenant George Washington Grummond, who longs to fight a foe he dismisses as inferior in all ways. The rank-and-file soldiers, meanwhile, are still divided by the residue of civil war, and tempted to desertion by the nearby goldfields.
Throughout this taut saga–based on real people and events–Michael Punke brings the same immersive, vivid storytelling and historical insight that made his breakthrough debut so memorable. As Ridgeline builds to its epic conclusion, it grapples with essential questions of conquest and justice that still echo today.
Vivid, moving, and exceptionally enthralling!
Ridgeline is an intricate, insightful tale that sweeps you away to the plains of Wyoming in the fall of 1866 when tensions between the soldiers and settlers of the newly formed Fort Phil Kearney and the Sioux people simmers and builds until it finally comes to a head on December 21, 1866, when infamous Lakota leader, Crazy Horse leads a band of multiple tribes in an artfully strategized assault and slaughter of 81 men on Lodge Trail Ridge that not only left this US Army outpost decimated but ultimately foreshadowed the bloodbath yet to come in the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn.
The writing is eloquent and expressive. The characters are determined, troubled, and strategic. And the plot using a mix of narration, diary entries, and told from multiple POVs, intertwines and unravels seamlessly into a harrowing tale of life, loss, hardship, culture, dissension, hostility, violence, survival, war, and murder.
Overall, Ridgeline is an exceptionally atmospheric, nuanced, beautifully written novel by Punke that transports you to another time and place and immerses you so thoroughly into the feelings, personalities, and lives of the characters you can’t help but be affected. It is undoubtedly one of my favourite novels of the year that does a wonderful job of reminding us of the extreme conflict and savagery that once graced these vast, rugged, prairie lands that some of us now call home.
This novel is available now.
Pick up a copy from your favourite retailer or from one of the following links.
Thank you to Henry Holt and Company for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.