Sunday, March 21, 2010

Review: Fire Along the Sky by Sara Donati

From the Back Cover:

Sara Donati returns to turbulent early-nineteenth-century America and her best-selling Bonner family saga. Three generations of Bonner women will face their most daunting challenges as they search for love and matter where it takes them...

In the sultry summer of 1812, Elizabeth and Nathaniel Bonner welcome Nathaniel's half-Indian daughter, Hannah, back into the family fold. But Hannah, a healer trained in both Western and native traditions, comes home to Paradise, New York, near broken in the wake of a haunting tragedy. Hannah soon finds that even in Paradise she can't hide from the newest war between England and the young United States. Her brother Daniel enlists...and is captured. Now it is up to Hannah and her cousin Jennet to pull off a daring act of rescue and sacrifice that will plunge these courageous Bonner women into the greatest danger of all...

My Thoughts:

Ten years have passed since Hannah married Strikes-the-Sky and walked west with him to live among his people and now she is back in Paradise, alone, a quiet shell of her former self. She's not the only one who's found their way home to the welcoming arms of the Bonner family. Her newly widowed cousin from Scotland, Jennet, has arrived looking to rekindle her relationship with her first love, Hannah's half-brother Luke. Luke's home, too, and he's brought his business partner, fellow Scot Simon Ballantyne, who has eyes only for Lily, the youngest Bonner daughter.

Hannah was my favorite character in books two and three of this series, but Lily takes center stage for me in this novel as she struggles to make the transition from girl to woman. Lily's plans to study art in Europe have been foiled by the outbreak of the War of 1812, and her life is further complicated by an illicit relationship. Eighteen years old, headstrong and with a wild streak, Lily is determined to chart her own future, and she begins by convincing her parents to let her live and study art in Montreal with her brother Luke.

Lily's twin, Daniel, also leaves Paradise with his cousin Blue Jay to join the war and soon finds himself taken prisoner. Lily and Simon make the dangerous trip through the battle lines to bring the news to Paradise, where the decision is made for Hannah and Jennet to set out with Luke's help to bring Daniel home.

As war breaks out along the Canadian border, the narrative moves back and forth between Montreal, the battlefields, and Nathaniel and Elizabeth in Paradise, who in addition to worrying for their children, have problems of their own to face at home. This novel has a large cast of characters and there are multiple story threads, but even though they are separated, the Bonner family is never far from each other in thought and heart. The story concentrates on the younger generation, but Nathaniel and Elizabeth are still integral characters and the population of Paradise colorfully portrays the ups and downs of frontier life on the edge of the vast New York wilderness.

I really like this series, I own all of them except the final book, which was recently published, but with this book as in the others, there are always a couple of things that nag at me and keep me from giving them five stars. Two in this one: First, It took me a long time to warm to Jennet; I found her annoying and callously happy to be a widow, though by her own admission her husband was a good man, even thought the marriage was arranged. And second, the story held on a little too long. With so many characters and plotlines, it took too long to bring it all together and the pace slowed down when I was ready to get to the end to see what the conclusion would be.

In this book a few lingering loose ends from previous books are tied up, but several things are left hanging and the basis for the next book is presented, so I'm moving right on to Queen of Swords. Then I think I'll wait a while to read Endless Forests. I'm not quite ready to read the end of the story yet.

My Rating:  4.5 Stars out of 5


  1. I have never heard of this series. I like historical novels that take place in Montreal since it is my city. The stories sound intriguing and I will look up the first book by this author. Thanks for the review!

  2. I am sure I mentioned before that I really enjoy this series, and you are lucky to be reading Queen of Swords next. I just loved that one! I still haven't quite bought myself to read The Endless Forest yet because I don't really want to say goodbye just yet.

  3. Laura, definitely check out Into the Wilderness, it's the first and the best. All of the books in this series have a connection to Montreal.

    Marg, I know, I'm not ready to be finished with these characters yet, either! I'm going to put off reading the last one.


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