The Apprenticeship of Nigel Blackthorn by Frank Kelso. Five stars! My favorite western author has always been Louis L’Amour – but I think, in reading The Apprenticeship of Nigel Blackthorn, that author Frank Kelso has just ranked up with him. In this narrative, Kelso manages to tell a simple tale about Nigel Blackthorn, a young boy whose missionary family is slaughtered on their way to a new life in the West, and who is plucked up from destitution by a French trader, Pascal, who roams the west with caravans of goods. Pascal, the wiley yet street-smart trader, sees something in Nigel, and takes him under his wing and starts him on a rigorous regimen to learn about survival, life, being a man, as well as educating him on the arts. The dialogue is real, sincere, compelling and, in the vein of L’Amour’s books, Kelso also teaches the reader about survival in the rugged west. How to find food, how to find water, how to avoid dangers, how to exist in a beautiful yet brutal land where death is just a snake-bite away. The characters are wonderfully developed, each with their foibles and quirks. The story line, though simple and sometimes appearing uneventful, parallels life as it must have been while trying to traverse and tame a land as big as the American west. The final chapter of Nigel’s apprenticeship is unique and beautifully rendered – capturing a piece of the native culture of the Redmen (not Indians as the author correctly points out) in a way that makes one yearn that simplicity, that pure unadulterated existence before the invasion of the white man debased an entire culture.
Review by Writers Inspiring Change