Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Shadow of the Storm
Kurt R.A. Giambastiani
Roc Books, 350 pages

Shadow of the Storm
Kurt R.A. Giambastiani
Kurt R.A. Giambastiani was born in 1958 in San Rafael, California. He works as a computer a project manager, an application designer, an analyst and a programmer. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

Kurt R.A. Giambastiani Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

I'm not a fan of alternate history, and American history in particular glazes my eyes right over, so Kurt Giambastiani wins my grudging admiration for pulling me all the way through Shadow of the Storm, a novel in which George Armstrong Custer is President of the United States.

It's 1889, and the U.S. is still a small nation crowded along the Atlantic coast. Spain controls California, and the Great Plains are the dominion of the Cheyenne -- fierce warriors who ride immense dinosaur-descended lizards. But the Americans have technology, industry, and a huge population of immigrants desperate for land. Under the leadership of Custer, they have pushed the Cheyenne and other tribes back to the banks of the Missouri River.

Custer's son, George junior, captured three years ago by the Cheyenne (in The Year the Cloud Fell), has learned Indian ways and joined their side, taking the name One Who Flies. Young George understands that the Cheyenne must gain recognition as a legitimate "nation", so when a shipwreck delivers the Spanish ambassador into his hands, he seizes this opportunity to forge an alliance.

That's the "big" action, but initially I was most interested in a second plot thread which follows an Italian family struggling to survive in the tenements of New York. When Cesare, the oldest son, murders a man to rescue his sister from prostitution, the family flees the city for the frontier, following rumours of free land.

Giambastiani's depiction of the grinding poverty, brutality and prejudice of the times is vivid and very well researched. He paints many layers and complexities of American society -- showing, for instance, the ruthlessness of the industrial magnates, but also the callous avarice of union leaders.

Equally strong is the author's depiction of the Cheyenne and their culture. George makes an excellent viewpoint character here -- living among the Cheyenne and admiring them, but still an outsider who trips over unfamiliar beliefs and customs.

Finally, the characters in this book are strongly written -- from President Custer, who is ruthless but unexpectedly insightful in his dealing with the Indians, to Storm Arriving, a proud warrior who must lead changes to his society that he does not like or understand.

Having said all that, I didn't enjoy Shadow of the Storm very much. Part of my difficulty was the almost unremitting gloom. Cesare sinks from a brave, idealistic young immigrant to an amoral brute (not entirely convincingly, either). President Custer, hardly a likable character anyway, juggles nasty industrialists and venal advisors. And young George and his Cheyenne friends suffer setbacks and heartbreak.

This is also, unquestionably, a guy book -- mostly war, politics, and macho posturing -- and the few women characters exist solely in the context of the men.

Nonetheless I kept hoping for a redeeming wrap-up, but -- silly me -- this is the second book in a trilogy. A few characters get killed off, but nothing significant is resolved. The last line should read: "stay tuned for the next episode...."

Enthusiasts of American history will probably appreciate the solid writing and strong historical detail in Shadow of the Storm. However, to save on aggravation, I'd suggest waiting until the third book comes out so you can read the whole story.

Copyright © 2003 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide