92/100 (9.2 out of 10)
Are you in the mood for a traditional, classic western that takes you into the shoes of people trying to find their way in the late 18th century? How about a treasure hunt filled with multiple competing parties including highway bandits, prospectors, a secret order of guardians, and simple farm folk just trying to survive in the very harsh and very wild west?
White Sands Gold stands out as refreshingly different from the grand majority of fiction novels we've read over the years.
It almost seemed like old westerns were a dying breed, a genre far past its prime. The demand for these types of books (and movies) is sadly (perhaps tragically) low. There was a time when westerns reigned supreme, ruling the silver screen on the backs of men like John Wayne, James Stewart, Sam Elliott, and Lee Marvin.
We have to admit something: we LOVE westerns, and we miss them being a larger part of fiction. Nowadays, fiction books are constantly being written about the turn of the 20th century or World War II. Very few people, it seems, write about the time before that: the time of dreamers, of the prospectors, of covered wagons, and of Colt & Remington revolvers. It's a romantic time. A scary time. A time of great promise and, yet, great uncertainty. It is a fascinating time.
Mike Torreano brought that all of that to life in the pages of this book, or at least valiantly attempted to do so.
The book follows a woman named Lottie Durham, whose brother, Yancy, goes missing on a search for the legendary gold that's said to entice prospectors in the caves of Victoria Mountain. The prologue of this book features the frightening, nail-biting cave collapse that befell Yancy, but the audience is tantalizes by questions about what happened afterward. Thankfully, Lottie wonders the same things that the audience does, making her a rather sympathetic character who is pleasant to follow.
Lottie is a tough dame with somewhat of a fighting prowess, something which both comes in handy in warding off terrible people and also captures the attentions of the Guardians and Ma (we'll get to them soon). Lottie is joined on her journey by Deputy O Sanders, the coolest cat in the room. In a film, Deputy O would likely be played by John Wayne, leaning back, calling everyone a pilgrim, and firing from the hip. O isn't afraid to let Lottie get some words in and to let some of the action happen before acting himself. That's just how he is. Cool, calm, and collected—the archetypical western hero.
Twill, the most active of the Guardians and one of the other major protagonists, is a rugged, determined individual who isn't slow to take action. You could make the argument that Twill is the main protagonist of the novel despite much of the focus being on Lottie, O, and Yancy. Twill is the one going out like Geronimo (or Rambo) and taking on/taking out the main baddies. It almost seems that many of the other characters are just along for the ride or caught up in the chaotic events.
There's also Ma, the leader of the Guardians, whose life revolves around protecting the mysterious sacred relic that accompanies the gold in the Victoria caves.
Rounding out the cast are the villains, Dolan and Bart Richards. Dolan in particular stood out to us. He reminded us of someone like Liberty Valance, a no-good bully who is feared by all. Ultimately, though, Dolan is a stooge for Richards, who “owns most of the town.” What's interesting about this is that it kinda reminds us of how Liberty Valance in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was said to have been hired by the cattle barons who opposed statehood, yet we never actually got to see or learn about the cattle barons “north of the Picketwire.” In this book, we have Richards, a man who uses his wealth and influence to bully and control.
Now, there are a few ways in which this book loses some of its edge. One is that there's a character that seems to be dying for 1/3rd to 1/4th of the story. It seems like she keeps giving her final words long after we've properly mourned, and she starts to overstay her welcome as a character(sad to say). Another way in which this book loses some of its uniqueness is when it becomes a mystery. We've read our fair share of mysteries, and it gets cloying after a while. It almost made this book seem more like The Mummy than The Searchers. There are just too many books about an ancient relic/magical item and a secret order that's supposed to protect it.
However, this is a good book overall.
If you love westerns, you might really like this book.
Check it out on Amazon!