In Ride the Trail of Death, renegade Lakota warrior Black Moon met his death at the hands of gunslinging lawman Birch Rose, or so I thought.
As it turns out, he was only mostly dead. In Black Moon’s Revenge, we meet a very much alive Black Moon who wastes no time spoiling for a rematch with Birch. Victory once again eludes him, and after another narrow escape, Black Moon is captured and sent to prison. Birch Rose turns in his badge and settles into a comfortable life as a rancher. Unfortunately, the Dakota Territory circa 1883 offers no rest for the weary. Birch Rose has more enemies than he knows, and Black Moon hasn’t given up his dreams of revenge.
Kenneth L. Kieser has created another rough-and-ready tale of the Old West based loosely upon his own family heritage. He returns to the frontier boom town of Deadwood, where treacherous scoundrels and sturdy, law-abiding folk struggle to carve two very different visions of civilization from an untamed wilderness. That struggle is exemplified in Birch Rose, whose desire for a settled, happy life with his wife competes with the thrill of dispensing justice through the barrel of a gun.
What I liked best about this book was that Mr. Kieser developed Birch Rose and Black Moon into much more well-rounded and compelling characters than in their first outing. Surprisingly, Black Moon spends a lot of time offstage while Birch deals with a new threat–one that makes sense given the historical context, but mostly serves as a convoluted means to bring Black Moon back into the story after he’s whisked away at the beginning. I wanted more time with Birch Rose and Black Moon, and less time with the dregs of Deadwood.
The storytelling clearly communicates Kieser’s love for the Old West and the people who braved its challenges and dangers, and the simple, direct style reflects the spirit of those days. However, the narration and dialogue felt a little stilted to me at times, and as in the first volume of this series, editing could have been tighter. Still, it’s an absorbing tale that should please anyone who enjoys Westerns or who liked Ride the Trail of Death and wants to hear the rest of the story.