cover image Light a Distant Fire

Light a Distant Fire

Lucia St Clair-Robson, Lucia St Clair Robson. Ballantine Books, $23 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-345-32548-8

The author of Ride the Wind powerfully recreates the mid-19th century Seminole Indian Wars and the life of Osceola, who courageously led his people against an unjust U.S. government. Robson draws the reader into her story gradually with a portrait of Osceola's youth and family, which includes a couple of wives and daughters and a feisty grandmother named Fighting in a Line. The characters are authentic and substantial, and the plot, though loosely woven and slow moving at times, supplies the requisite love, struggle, danger and betrayal. The novel picks up speed when Robson introduces Lt. John Goode, a young West Point graduate. She deftly builds a relationship between Goode and Osceola, demonstrating Goode's initial perception of the Indians as savages, his growing admiration for them and his falling in love with and marrying a Seminole woman. By volunteering for Indian raids, the Lieutenant manages to steer the militiamen away from Osceola and his family. Goode's divided loyalties ultimately bring tragedy to Osceola, but the personal bond triumphs over political enmity. Robson's clear sympathy for the Seminole Indians does not prevent her from creating fictional portraits that illuminate the complexities on both sides. (October)