In People of the Raven, awardwinning archaeologists and New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors W Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear spin a vivid and captivating tale around one of the most controversial archaeological discoveries in the world, the Kennewick Mana Caucasoid male mummy dating back than , yearsfound in the Pacific Northwest on the banks of the Columbia RiverA white man in North America than , years ago? What was he doing there?With the terrifying grandeur of melting glaciers as a backdrop, People of the Raven shows animals and humans struggling for survival amidst massive environmental change Mammoths, mastodons, and giant lions have become extinct, and Rain Bear, the chief of Sandy Point Village, knows his struggling Raven People may be next

10 thoughts on “People of the Raven

  1. Anne Hawn Smith Anne Hawn Smith says:

    This was one of the best books of this series. It deals with the fictional setting for the Kennewick Man. The story takes place at a time when the Caucasian-type prehistoric North Americans were diminishing and the Mongoloid-type were expanding.

    The story is very hard to get into because of the number of characters and the profusion of names like Windwomanthat may apply to a person or, in this case the wind. Anyone who has read books by the Gears is familiar with this and has to be prepared to reread several chapters in order to get them straight. It is worth taking the time though as the books are well written and informative.

  2. Katrin von Martin Katrin von Martin says:

    I bought this book almost…wow…ten years ago at a library book sale. At the time, I remember seeing these “First North Americans” books everywhere and, frankly, I liked the almost cheesy cover art, so I thought I’d give it a go and see what these Native American books were all about. I started it not long after buying it. And then university happened and I sort of forgot about it until recently. I don’t even know what brought it to mind after all these years, but I was looking for something a little out of my ordinary reading choices and “People of the Raven” instantly came to mind. My old copy of the book is long gone, so I purchased the Kindle version and got right down to business. I wasn’t sure what to expect. My forays into Historical Fiction have been limited and my knowledge of the first peoples of North America is almost nonexistent, and perhaps because of that I couldn’t stop flipping through the pages to learn more about this time period and people who inhabited it. Spoilers follow.

    Before I get into my review, I’m going to throw up my general disclaimer when it comes to historical fiction. I am not a historian. Anything I know about history generally comes from documentaries, the paltry amount that I remember from my schoolyears, and clicking around online. Case in point: when Kennewick Man appeared in the prologue, I had to put down my Kindle and run a quick google search because I’d never heard of him and had no idea who he was (and I’m glad I did because he seems to have brought up a fascinating argument in the prehistoric historian community!). With that in mind, I approached this more as a work of fiction with historical elements than a straight factual historical novel. I’m not here to nitpick on the Gears’ research or their historical accuracy. This is historical fiction and I’m happy to overlook some historical inaccuracy provided that the story (the “fiction” side of this genre) is interesting. I’m far more concerned with the reading experience that the novel provided.

    The book opens with a sort of prologue that focuses on the enigma that is Kennewick Man – the remains of a prehistoric man found in Washington that, at the time, was determined to have more Caucasoid traits than Native American. After this introduction, “People of the Raven” launches readers into the past through a speculative journey of who Kennewick Man might have been, how he lived, and how he died. The Pacific Northwest circa 10,000 years ago provides the backdrop to this tale of intrigue, war, and change. The North Wind People and the People of the Raven have maintained a symbiotic relationship for many years. The People of the Raven provide tribute in the form of food and material resources in return for the North Wind People’s knowledge of the land and mysterious artefacts. Over the years, however, this relationship has degraded and now the two groups teeter on the edge of war, and it looks like the North Wind People are prepared – and willing – to make the first decisive move.

    Rain Bear, the somewhat reluctant leader of the People of the Raven finds himself facing a desperate fight to save his people, aided by Evening Star, a North Wind matron in the making who was abused by her own people for her village’s sympathy toward the People of the Raven. Rain Bear also finds himself in the possession of Tsauz, the blind son of the North Wind People’s Starwatcher with the potential for being one of the greatest dreamers ever known. They face Cimmis, the formidable North Wind Chief who secretly doubts the council of elders and relies more on his ill wife’s guidance and his private assassins to make his will known, and the superior might of the North Wind people. Meanwhile, Dzoo, a renowned healer and dreamer with unimaginable abilities and the personality of an enigma, finds herself battling the dangerous affection of Coyote, a mysterious witch who will kill to reach the object of his desire and is feared for his cruelty.

    The book is a little under 500 pages long and the story more than adequately fills those pages. Since I’ve been reading a lot of series of late, I questioned whether a full story complete with setup and an introduction to the time period could be told in one book, but I needn’t have worried. The Gears are masterful storytellers and excel in mixing plot and exposition in a fluid, satisfying presentation. Additionally, I was never bored while reading. There’s a lot packed into this novel with a little bit of everything thrown in: intrigue, mystery, action, strategy, friendship, sorrow, and romance. The story is constantly moving from one point to the next, never stalling or belabouring the point; it feels like every scene accomplishes something, which is one of those little things that I look for in a good book. That’s not to say that it’s all just a nonstop rollercoaster of action and excitement. There’s a great balance of fast and slow scenes with the characters racing ahead when they need to while also slowing down to develop important themes and concepts. In short, it’s a very satisfying read that never disappoints and always keeps you guessing, all packed neatly into one 500 page book.

    As a brief word of warning, however, there is a lot to get familiar with early in the book. The cast of characters is huge and the setting is very foreign to the modern reader. This, of course, necessitates some exposition and the rapid introduction of a lot of figures that might throw some readers off. My normal genres are fantasy and sci fi, so keeping track of worldbuilding is hardly a new thing for me, but it can be a bit daunting for someone who isn’t used to having a lot of information tossed at them at once.

    I also personally found “People of the Raven” to be full of surprises. Now, granted, this is the first of these authors’ offerings that I’ve read and it seems like other reviewers have started to notice certain patterns emerging in this long series, but as a newcomer I was pleased to be kept guessing and often didn’t know where the story was going.

    When I read historical fiction, the main thing I’m looking for is immersion into the time period. I don’t want to feel like I’m reading about modern characters with modern ideologies tossed into a world where the historical context is mere set dressing (as I’ve felt when reading other historical fiction offerings); I want to feel like I’m transported back into the era in which the novel takes place. “People of the Raven” more than succeeds on that front. The Gears have clearly done their research into the technology that would have been available to prehistoric America’s people and have used it to extrapolate further into how the characters would have thought, what their values would have been, how they would have spoken, and how they would have lived. Since we don’t have written record of these peoples, there’s a lot of guesswork in figuring out what their day to day lives would have consisted of and the authors did a fantastic job in giving an educated suggestion that portrays our distant ancestors in an authentic, genuine manner. Rather than try to twist the historical setting around an agenda or message (can you tell that I’ve been disappointed by historical fiction in the past?), the authors let the characters and their very different way of life speak for themselves and it paints a picture of a time very unfamiliar to us…which is what I live for when I’m reading this genre.

    This ancient landscape is far more brutal than ours and our ancestors lived lives that were often difficult, dangerous, and cut horrifically short…and all of these tribulations are depicted. I wasn’t quite expecting this book – part of a series that, at the time, I’d seen popping up in places as mainstream as my local grocery store and made available to a very broad audience – to be as violent as it is. Since I often end up reading a lot of grimdark fantasy (which tends to err on the side of bluntly expressing the harsh realities of life…and then some), I wasn’t particularly bothered by this, but more sensitive readers might want to be aware that the Gears pull absolutely no punches in showing the merciless existence of the novel’s characters. Torture, rape, abuse, war violence, beheadings, and other grisly ways of dying are all present and no one is exempt…not women, not children, not the elderly, and especially not the warriors and chiefs that dominate this prehistoric period. It feels accurate to the era and there’s a little historical epilogue that explains that the remains that have been found from this time bear the signs of a violent life, so there’s some foundation for the sometimes graphic events. Again, not really an issue for me and I never saw it as gratuitous, but if you’d rather not read about people going through some awful things in your historical fiction, “People of the Raven” may not be for you.

    On a final history related note, I was very impressed with the Gears’ depiction of the ancient peoples’ beliefs. Both the People of the Raven and the North Wind People hold tight to their firm convictions in their various gods and beliefs – especially as the fear in the mysteries of healing and magic pertains to Dzoo and Coyote – and these convictions are treated very much as fact from the characters’ points of view. They don’t speak of the sun rising and setting, thunder rumbling, and lightning striking; instead they speak of deities carrying the sun to the sky or swallowing it in the evening and fantastical entities emitting the thunder that accompanies a storm. Rites of passage a treated with utmost seriousness and healers are held in a position of reverence. These aren’t motions that the characters go through because they are tradition; they are strong beliefs that are unquestionably true to America’s earliest peoples. If you pay close attention, there are subtle suggestions slipped in to explain away the more fantastical elements. A boy’s flight with the Thunderbird could have been the result of a potent drink consumed before the rite; a woman’s unexplainable escape may have been owed to a rope that went missing; sometimes science and what we consider common knowledge of the natural world is the answer to one of the great mysteries attributed to the actions of a god. Whatever the case, the presentation of these beliefs as fact adds an element of authenticity to both the story and the characters (and I’m a little surprised to read some people griping about it – if you want a straight, factual account of America’s prehistoric past without fictional elements, historical fiction might not be your cup of tea) and I was pleased to see it be utilized so well.

    The single thing that I really wish would have been given more attention is the race issue that is reference many times throughout the novel. The North Wind people are portrayed as being very Caucasoid (paler skin, facial hair, lighter hair colours including red, etc.) while the People of the Raven are more the typical Native American (tan skinned, strong facial features, dark hair, and so on). I suppose it’s possible that race was never intended to play a big role beyond simply distinguishing the two different tribes, but I found it odd that these differences were often noted and then brushed aside. Combined with a premise that seems centered around the idea of two races coexisting less than peacefully, I was just a little surprised to not see it appear as a more prominent big issue in the novel.

    My one major gripe with “People of the Raven” was the romance. As a general disclaimer and rule, I tend to almost always dislike romance and wish that it didn’t seem to be a prerequisite for pretty much every novel written. That being said, if it’s done well with characters that are intriguing and sizzle when together, I can find it in my icy heart to be more forgiving of this annoying ever-present theme. Unfortunately, the relationship in this book is pretty dull and eats up far too many pages. The involved characters themselves are interesting in their own rights, I suppose, but they’re so perfectly set up for a romance that it’s worthy of an eyeroll. Evening Star is a redheaded, young matron with a beautiful body, a tragic past (her husband and daughter were tortured and killed before her eyes by her own people before she was enslaved), and the potential to wield power due to her family line. Rain Bear is the stoic, strong leader of the People of the Raven with a perfectly chiseled body, convenient moments of vulnerability, and the fortune of being available after his beloved wife’s death (their story actually sounded pretty interesting…why couldn’t we have gotten that?). On their own, they’re perfectly passable characters with roles to play. Together they’re very…blah. Attractive man and attractive woman get together to heal one another’s hurts, and that’s about it. There’s potential that, given their positions among their respective peoples, they’ll usher in a new age of cooperation, but they just aren’t a very interesting pair beyond that. And I really wish that their blossoming relationship hadn’t been focused on so much. In a novel that did a lot of things right, the romance was so underwhelming that it stood out for it.

    Normally when I discuss characters, I touch on the main character(s) and then any noteworthy minor characters, but I’m not going to do that for this book simply because the cast list is huge and there are many “main” characters. As this is only a single novel story, I honestly wasn’t expecting much from the characters, especially when I realized just how many figures would populate this story…and that was entirely to my folly because the characters are actually pretty well developed for a 500 page novel. Some are pretty basic (see Rain Bear and Evening Star above) and are exactly what you would expect while others are brimming with secrets and intrigue (Dzoo in particular stands out), but every one of them is fleshed out and plays their role. They all have their place in their society, they all have a part in this story, and they all fit into the time period very well. There are a lot of personalities and, surprisingly, they all get a decent amount of time to shine (however short some of their lives may end up being). The Gears do a fine job of giving the characters that populate their world plenty of attention, making us care not only about what is happening, but also to whom.

    The one exception to this is Starwatcher Ecan, who was a little over the for me. He’s painted as the “bad guy” of the story…and my God does he embody every despicable trait that a man possibly could. He’s bloodthirsty, he’s manipulative, he lies, he abuses his son, he killed his son’s mother and her family, he regularly rapes women, he mistreats slaves, he blinded his son, and it’s strongly implied that he has an interest in torturing children if not flat out committing pedophilia. It’s all just too much. While the other characters (even those on the antagonists’ side) being so wonderfully balanced, Ecan is way over the top. There’s a late attempt at giving some ambiguity to Ecan toward the end of the novel by revealing that he really does care for his son Tsauz, but it’s too little too late. He’s perhaps not THE villain, but he’s the most prominent negative figure and I really wish that he’d been handled with a little more nuance.

    So after having finished “People of the Raven,” I think I’d definitely read another novel by the Gears. The story is tight, well-paced, and full of surprises and the characters are interesting and balanced with many being portrayed. The most important aspect to me, however, is that it succeeds in transporting the reader to a completely different time. The era isn’t just fancy scenery for an otherwise modern story, it’s almost a character in and of itself and the people living out their lives in it are very different in their values, ideologies, and way of life than you or me. In short, it’s exactly what I look for when reading historical fiction. There are a couple of issues that keep me from giving it a full five stars, but it’s a solid four star novel.

  3. Sarah Sarah says:

    Not the Gears' best work. At the time this was written, it was based on a controversial finding some claimed was a Caucasoid skeleton. The book is based on this premise (which has since turned out to be false). That aside, the fetishization of multiple female characters with red hair, while almost no male Caucasians appear is problematic.

  4. Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a tale of survival and strategy. The People of the Raven are in a subservient relationship with the North Wind People; they provide food and resources whilst the North Wind People provide them with skilfully-produced artefacts. What should be a symbiotic relationship has descended into one that verges on the borders of genocidal warfare - and it is the North Wind People who have the edge!
    Anyone who comes to the First Americans series has to accept that these are not (pre-)historical novels based simply on the archeological expertise of the authors. We see the world as the Native Americans would have seen it... the wind, the rain, the thunder all take on an extra dimension as they become the gods and spirits of their world.
    There is also another dimension that I always find a little uncomfortable but end up putting up with - the realm of fantasy. It is one thing to believe in communication with the spirit world and witches etc, it is a completely different ball game to write as if these things actually DO exist.
    Given my small caveat, this series is generally entertaining. I would find it hard to accept this mixture of verisimilitude and fantasy as anything other than pure fiction... but it's not bad fiction!

  5. J.M. Northup J.M. Northup says:

    Masterful, Intriguing, and Thought-provoking!
    The Kennewick Man - do I have your attention yet? That was all it took for the Gears to have mine!
    I love the different theories about how North America was populated and what peoples were here pre-Columbus. I am also an avid reader, particularly drawn to historical fiction, pre-historic works, and Native American lore. The Gears give me all the elements that make a story a powerhouse for me and the biggest part of that mix is their detailed and rich storytelling. They just make me live the story along with the incredible characters.
    While I was in the military, I was stationed out in the Pacific Northwest. I have been to the Columbia River Gorge and other areas presented in the book so that added an extra layer to my reading experience. I also remember the head lines when the Kennewick Man was discovered and the debates its discovery incited about the Caucasoids in our Nation's pre-history. This made the tale more enticing because it was something I could really relate to on a personal level.
    Masterful storytelling, vivid images, intriguing characters, questionable creatures, and fascinating theories... I love the Gears and this series only gets better and better! HIGHLY recommended to book-lovers!

  6. Jillian Jillian says:

    the people of... series has become my brainless book. what i find annoying, even though i keep reading them, is while the science and history behind them is quite fansinating, the novels themselves are tedious and lack development. the politics seem contrite. the endings are anti-climatic. i guess that's what happens when you churn out a novel every 18mons.

    these books could be really well written and deep (if you want really well researched, well-written historical fiction, try colleen mccollough's masters of rome series), but they are not. either the gears dont care to write them, preferring quantity over quality, or just cant.

    also, im annoyed by how 'white' and misleading the models on the covers are - in one of the books, the main male character had a misformed arm, but the cover should hale and whole people.

  7. Felicia Felicia says:

    I have read about 15 of their books and this one is just as good as the rest!

    If you want to learn about the Native American Indians in a fictional story then I highly suggest you pick up any of their books.

    This book is about the Raven people. It's every engaging, fascinating and although it is over 500 pages long you can't put it down.

  8. Bobbie N Bobbie N says:

    Following the discovery of the Kennewick Man, a skeleton discovered o the banks of the Columbia River around which much controversy flowed for years, the Gears attempt to show his possible origins in this fabulous addition to their First North Americans series.

    Matron Ashcat of the North Wind People's soul is flying - is she having visions or suffering from dementia? Fear has overtaken her people, and the council of elders, without her leadership, have acted out of that fear and enslaved the neighboring clans of the Raven People, massacring them if they refuse to pay tribute, even though they have no more left to give, as massive environmental changes are causing the glaciers to melt and animal species to die off, and people are starving as a result. Chief Rain Bear of Sandy Point village has one last chance to save his struggling people, who are next in line to be massacred by the North Wind clan, but in order to do so he must create an alliance between the remaining Raven People clans.

  9. Claudia Claudia says:

    This is the first novel in this series that I have read. Actually, I listened to the audio book.
    More than the actual story, I enjoyed the prehistoric world the authors created. The culture and traditions were interesting and believable. The intro chapter which follows a modern day scientist who wants to study the remains of one of the prehistoric individuals drew me into the story. This could have been the basis for another novel.
    I'm not sure why the authors inserted a bizarre little prelude to Christianity. There was no follow through and no warning. Just weird and unnecessary.

  10. Rebecca Green Rebecca Green says:

    every book in this series is very thought out, full of knowledge, and detail. the story line is awesome, and some story lines overlap in other books in the series. you could tell a lot of study went into writing each of these books regarding the native american peoples..