cover image Nightsong


Carolyn Davidson, . . HQN, $6.99 (378pp) ISBN 978-0-373-77285-8

Davidson's western historical, about a hunted man and the half-Indian with whom he takes refuge, is a mixed bag. Davidson's lyrical, almost ethereal prose never quite fits the harsh western setting of 1888, in which racism has isolated Debra Nightsong from both her tribe and the world of white men. Tending to the Dakota territory farm where she lives alone, Debra is surprised one evening to find an armed man in her house: Ethan Tyler, a man on the run for reasons he won't reveal. Though he imposes himself on her household—making Debra a virtual prisoner—he proves charming, good-hearted and a valuable worker. Davidson is at her best chronicling the day-to-day of farm living, and her prominent supporting characters—including Debra's half-brother and the bounty hunter pursuing Ethan—give the story extra dimension. Unfortunately, those characters show little complexity, functioning more like saints than citizens of the Wild West. Frustrating matters further, Debra and Ethan are separated for a full third of the book, carrying on an epistolary romance that barely satisfies the characters, much less the reader. Though Ethan's everyman quality and the genuine caring he and Debra share hold promise, Davidson's muted storytelling and odd choices result in a lackluster tale. (May)