Dogwood Crossing – Steven Frye

It’s an odd one out, this book. It met my expectations to a T and at the same time, it didn’t. I’m still puzzled and wondering about the hows and whys, which is not bad thing – I mean, writing a story that stays with the reader is maybe one of the greatest accomplishments for an author.

So, Steven: well done! And you picked a nice cover, too.

As usual, let’s dig in and talk about DC a little bit more.

Yay!

  • The main reason why I like DC is that it’s well-researched. Yesss. I was expecting accuracy even before starting to read, given the author’s bio, but I still want to mention it: the grim and grit of the American frontier is right in your face from chapter one, line one. The way Sam Rolens and his family live and talk and think is true, precise to the bone. Realism, folks. Give me realism and I’ll read you forever. The watered down version that I sometimes stumble into is a surefire way to make me yawn.
  • (Some) descriptions. I’m not a fan of descriptions, per se, but they can be useful, especially if we’re knee-deep in some historical lit. While there’s no need to tell me about mascara brands or eye colors, like, ever *shivers*, I need to know about Dutch ovens and the structure of a Conestoga if I want to follow along.
  • Burl. Blame my insta-weakness for BAMF characters, I like Burl a lot. Even more so since he’s a side character, and it’s hard to nail those down. The Rolens are portrayed in a good, interesting way – I love Lucetta’s strength and more often than not I want to bang Sam’s head with a saucepan: the wheel! Lucetta’s pregnancy! – and they all grow throughout the story, but Uncle Burl is the glue that really keeps them together. He’s badass too, as I said.
  • The ending is bittersweet. While I love me a nice happy ending, there are times when it just doesn’t fit the mood. I’m glad you didn’t shoehorn it in, Steven. Well done.

After the yay, comes the

Nay!

  • POV switch. Again, I have no idea why POV switching is all the rage among authors, because I promise you, it’s not. It’s just confusing and it gives away too much. Consider this: third. Limited. POV.
  • French sentences without a translation. I think I get the reason behind this – showing Sam’s confusion upon hearing people who speak a language he doesn’t understand – but I need to know what’s going on without pulling up GTranslate. Footnotes or a translation at the very end would have been useful.
  • Descriptions. I’m putting them here too because they are too many. Relevant descriptions are perfect; unnecessary ones are not.
  • A couple elements that challenged my disbelief suspension. For example, the Harpes torture a young man by cutting off his leg with a knife. Ignoring the ill-suited tool – a cleaver, an axe? Yep. A knife? Um – even if we’re not talking femoral artery, it’s rather quick a goodbye. Without a clear timespan, I can’t buy the fact that Craig died later, after getting rescued. Plus, the Harpes subplot is never mentioned anymore?

All things considered, I’m giving DC a solid 7,5/10 (and I’m starting to hate the Goodreads star system. This would have been a 3.50 stars, but Goodreads doesn’t let me do that. Bummer.)

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