Part 2 of 4 from last month's Belgium travelogue (link) is coming next week!
Disclosure: The novel reviewed below was a free selection from Amazon Kindle for Samsung’s monthly book deals. That’s why I read it. And this review will also be featured on my Goodreads page soon.
Cotton Smith’s 1865 post-Civil War western novel, Sons of Thunder, juggles themes of faith, racial reform, redemption, self-sacrifice, racial bigotry, greed, child abuse, domestic abuse, and religious hypocrisy. The plot involves Rule Cordell, a former Confederate soldier/outlaw (with a revisionist sense of racial tolerance, of course) who takes on a new identity as the peaceful Reverend James Rule Langford, a part-time, small town preacher. An unscrupulous mayor, the captain of the Texas police force, and a large gang of baddies set out to intimidate and defraud the town members/churchgoers, and, you guessed it… Cordell steps up to put an end to their reign of violence and terror.
Besides being a free book, I was mainly drawn to this story by the internal religious conflicts of the protagonist. There is a tension between Cordell’s call to be a peaceful Christ follower/preacher and his firebrand wife’s conviction that “turning the other cheek [isn’t] very effective in these turbulent times.” His abusive father, a hypocritical former reverend himself, provides another contrast to Cordell’s struggles with faith. And a wise, influential Comanche shaman named Moon of the self-named Noomah people adds yet ANOTHER layer to Cordell’s spiritual journey, although in a more vaguely religious sense.
“Sons of Thunder” is front loaded with both characterization and religious pondering, which are both later dispensed with as Cordell rounds up his old gang and goes after the bad guys. The action is exciting, racism as personified by the KKK antagonists is adequately vilified, and there are a couple of surprising twists as the conclusion approaches. With the exception of some annoyingly exaggerated Tex-Mex dialect and a hilariously ludicrous 11th hour cameo during the climax, the story is engaging and seems to historically credible. Overall, it’s a quick, fun read.
My rating: 3 ½ out 5 stars.