- Opening Chapter-1.5
- Plot Development-1.5
- Plot Pacing: 1
- Narration: 2
- Character Development-2
Total: 13 (5+ stars)
Rating: Appropriate for ages 13+ for violence.
The five stars I give have four levels: (1) I can’t find any valid reason to deduct stars (2) It has flaws, but compensates for it in other areas (3) it’s an awesome, engaging book, although not especially memorable. The Little Sentinel of the Sierra Nevada by Paul Williams is one of the few I’ve reviewed that make the top tier: (4) Why isn’t this a Hollywood film? I don’t review very much historical fiction and did not expect to find a story, set during the Western Expansion, to be so compelling that I didn’t want to put it down.
Sarah Harlan, at thirteen, is mature and wise beyond her years, so much that even the adults in her life listen to and value her opinion. She sets off with her parents and younger sister, and later meets up with her aunt, uncle, and cousin. One of my favorite parts of this books was watching Sarah develop a close bond with her idealistic cousin Nathan, which will be lifelong. With a masterful articulation that few writers have achieved, Mr. Williams describes in vivid detail the landscape and the daily routine of the family as they trek westward. Along the way, Sarah and her family deal with shortages, hazardous climate and terrain, illness, and hostile natives. But they are strong; there is no doubt this family can survive all the perils of the journey. It is only when they run afoul of vicious bandits that their chance of survival is called into question.
There is more than enough action to keep the reader fully engaged to the end. Mr. Williams has mastered the art of narration; readers are given information exactly when they need it, no sooner and no later. The characterizations are equally flawless. The characters are presented as human, with everyone, including the bad guys, being presented as having both good and bad qualities. Finally, it is obvious that Mr. Williams put a lot of time and effort into research for this book. I recommend it 100%
There are a few editorial issues, but not enough to diminish the quality of this excellent book.
Here is a brief excerpt:
“Thank you,” I opened, “for lending me your book.”
“You enjoyed the read?”
I considered this, wishing to choose my words carefully before my well-read elder cousin, and he allowed me time to find my answer. “No. I don’t believe it was a book meant to be enjoyed,” I said.
“They chide me for it,” he confessed. “Ma and Pa.”
“Why should they?” I asked “They are decent people. They have no love of slavery.”
“Ma abhors it,” he declared. “They both see it for what it is, but they still accept it. They see no purpose to my passion.”
“And what is that passion?” I asked.
He stopped to better study me, unsure whether I to sought to ridicule his stand, but my honestly soon allayed his concerns. “Slavery is an abomination,” he announced. “It’s my intention to take a hold on that institution and wrench it from the earth in which it grows.”
The strength and conviction of his words caught my . “How should you do this…?”
“Let me ask you a question first. What have you taken from the tale, Cousin Sarah?” Nathan asked.
I thought hard on this. “It has taught me that even one man alone can make a difference. It has taught me that no adversary is too mighty to be opposed.”