by Sigmund Brouwer
2000 / 317 pages
Set on the 1870s American frontier, this might at first glance seem to be a Western. But there a good deal of mystery novel here too – from the moment Sam Keaton steps into the town of Laramie he’s confronted with one riddle after another. It all starts with an Indian that Keaton saves from a vicious beating. This good deed puts Keaton behind bars. Before he can engineer his escape, the town’s Marshal, a mysterious sort himself, sends Keaton off to find out about some gold that may, or may not exist.
While mysteries abound in this very fast-paced book, what sets it apart is the growth Keaton goes through. Early on, he’s trapped in his tiny jail cell facing a very large, very angry man who has been sent to kill him. Staring down the wrong end of a shotgun barrel changes Keaton. Soon after, when a pretty, and very willing young woman throws herself at him, Keaton turns her down, but finds himself,
“… wondering why I had not pursued the company she had been offering…. Because of that shotgun I could not deny the nagging feeling that I was missing something, that life had to be bigger than finding ways to satisfy the varied demands of my body. I could not escape the feeling that deep down, I’d always known life had to be bigger, but along the way I had always chosen whatever distractions it took to keep me from wondering about God. Except now, try as I might, I couldn’t ignore what some certainty told me was beyond. If I turned my back on whatever instinct now pulled me to seek answers, if I chose distractions like this Suzanne, I would have to fool myself real good not to find those distractions sour and hollow.”
Keaton isn’t done with his spiritual wrestling by the end of the book, but he has made a good start of it.
But while there is a lot to love about this book, it is worth noting that there is some adult material here – there is some grit. One example: Keaton recalls a time when he was seduced by a “wild” woman. It never gets lascivious but Brouwer does describe sexual temptation in a pretty frank way. So this is a book I would recommend for adults and older teens only.
While every author works hard polishing their writing, most stop once the book goes to the printer. That’s not the case with Sigmund Brouwer who has revised several of his published works, creating, in one instance, three separate versions of the same story over the course of 20 years (Magnus 1995 ⇒ Wings of Dawn 1999 ⇒ Merlin’s Immortals series 2012-2014). That can make for some confusion, and the possibility of mistakenly buying the same story twice. So for clarification, Evening Star had an earlier iteration, first appearing as Morning Star back in 1994. There are three other books in the series, including at least one other, Silver Moon, that was first published under another title: Moon basket. The earlier version was called the Ghost Rider series, while the revised and more recent is Sam Keaton: Legends of Laramie and in order the titles are:
- Evening Star
- Silver Moon
- Sun Dance
- Thunder Voice
I’ve only read the first, but it has me looking forward to checking out the next three!