Book review: Naapiikoan Winter by Alethea Williams


  • Publication Date: May 9, 2016
  • Publisher: C.A. Williams
  • eBook & Paperback; 295 Pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction


At the turn of a new century, changes unimagined are about to unfold.

THE WOMAN: Kidnapped by the Apaches, a Mexican woman learns the healing arts. Stolen by the Utes, she is sold and traded until she ends up with the Piikáni. All she has left are her skills—and her honor. What price will she pay to ensure a lasting place among the People?

THE MAN: Raised in a London charitable school, a young man at the end of the third of a seven year term of indenture to the Hudson’s Bay Company is sent to the Rocky Mountains to live among the Piikáni for the winter to learn their language and to foster trade. He dreams of his advancement in the company, but he doesn’t reckon the price for becoming entangled in the passions of the Piikáni.

THE LAND: After centuries of conflict, Náápiikoan traders approach the Piikáni, powerful members of the Blackfoot Confederation. The Piikáni already have horses and weapons, but they are promised they will become rich if they agree to trap beaver for Náápiikoan. Will the People trade their beliefs for the White Man’s bargains?

Partially based on the works of Canadian trader, explorer, and mapmaker David Thompson, Náápiikoan Winter spans a continent, examining the cultures in flux at the passing of an era and the painful birth of another.

“When we read NAAPIIKOAN WINTER our hearts were swept back in time. Alethea Williams writes with the same authority and beauty that A. B Guthrie, Bernard de Voto, Wallace Stegner, and Conrad Richter imparted to the page. We marveled at the quality of her research, and the precision with which Williams recreated the world of the Blackfeet at the time of white contact. Find the first page, dear reader, and you’ll fall effortlessly into a long-gone world filled with both the noblest of humans, and the dross that always follows. This is no Western romance, but the nitty-gritty reality of the Northern Plains. We call NAAPIIKOAN WINTER masterful!” -W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear, authors of PEOPLE OF THE MORNING STAR

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photoAbout the author:  Alethea Williams grew up in southwest Wyoming. Willow Vale is her first novel of the immigrant experience, dealing with the Tyroleans after WWI. Willow Vale won a 2012 Wyoming State Historical Society Publications Award. Her second novel details the Irish immigrant experience and the Orphan Train movement in Walls for the Wind. Walls for the Wind is a WILLA Literary Award finalist, a gold Will Rogers Medallion winner, and placed first at the Laramie Awards in the Prairie Fiction category. Her third book, a Western American pre-history spanning the North American continent, entitled Náápiikoan Winter is now available. She also has a collection of newspaper columns in print:Boomer Blues Book: Staying Alive and Sane in the Modern American West. Twice president of Wyoming Writers, Inc. she lives in her native state with long-time friend, Amazon parrot Bob.

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Naapiikoan Winter is a novel written from the perspective of several very different characters during the time the Hudson’s Bay Company was forging trading routes into the western part of North America.

The novel begins with Isobel Ochoa, the kidnapped daughter of a Mexican hacienda-owner.  We witness her capture by the Apaches and subsequent trade to other tribes.  In the beginning of the book, her personal voice is strong and we follow with interest as she survives her capture.  The novel branches off to include the stories of several other characters including Donal Thomas from the Hudson’s Bay Company as well as persons  from the different Amerindian tribes during her lifetime.

I was expecting to hear more abut Isobel but her voice fades and she becomes a secondary character with little more written about her as the story progresses. Although the other characters were interesting, I found that their inclusion watered down Isobel’s own part in the book.

This novel was an ambitious undertaking considering the time period and the range of characters involved.  Each story kept me engaged and wanting to read more.  I look forward to reading more of Alethea’s work.