David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s gritty debut & first in a series thriller, takes place on Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation. Our massively flawed hero and recovering alcoholic, Virgil Wounded Horse, has made a career of being Rosebud’s vigilante. Taking matters into his own hands when the tribal cops & feds decline to interfere. When his nephew, Nathan, winds up in the middle of a drug ring, Virgil puts everything on the line to save him.
First and foremost, the betrayal of Native Americans and the issue of native identity are the backbone of this novel. Weiden has wonderfully combined a crime fiction novel with a social novel, in a way that is educating but also entertaining. Weiden, an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation, spent time on the Rosebud reservation growing up and writes with raw honesty about life there. He writes this so well in fact that you can almost imagine yourself being there. I had heard about a lot of the injustices with the Native Americans, we all have in terms of history. But I had also learned a bit about current Native American reservation life in college and they’re basically treated as if they live in their own foreign country, and the American government is so graciously helping them out. The treatment many still get on the reservations is awful and I think the first step to helping to improve these conditions is simply voicing them, which Weiden is doing a masterful job doing.
This book reads less like your average thriller and more like a gritty southern noir is written. There is still plenty of suspsenfilled moments, including fights, cartels, and drug wars, but somehow these events feel heavier and less reactionary, unlike many thriller novels tend to be. Whit this is certainly a page turner, I found myself actually reading it slower to let the story sink in more, and to simply take in some of the information I was getting. The use of traditional Native American formatted names and the use of Lakota words also helped to make this book completely realistic, I also felt I learned a ton of information. And for all you traditional thriller lovers (which I also am) the ending you won’t see coming and there are plenty of red herrings for you to marvel at.
I really loved the way the title of the book is incorporated into the story as well. Winter Counts are an actual thing and according to Wikipedia (I know not the most relatable but it really helped me grasp the concept better):
Winter Counts are pictorial calendars or histories in which tribal records and events were recorded by Native Americans in North America. The Blackfeet, Mandan, Kiowa, Lakota, and other Plains tribes used winter counts extensively. There are approximately one hundred winter counts in existence, but many of these are duplicates. Most winter counts have a single pictograph symbolizing each year, based on the most memorable event of that year. For Lakota people, years ran from first snowfall to first snowfall.
I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait for a second book, if this in fact is going to be a series. What a debut! This book is out now, get it HERE!
I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on Winter Counts. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my instagram @speakingof_books. Huge Thank you to Ecco Books for my advanced copy.
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