From the Heart of the Storm is the fourth novel in the Fallen Cloud series, following Shadow of the Storm. In the previous volume, the Spanish ambassador to the United States, Alejandro Miguel Tomas Silveira-Rioja, arranged for a meeting between leaders of the Cheyenne Alliance and President Custer in Washington. Yet Silveira also arranged to have the President's son, George Junior, assassinated as vengeance upon the father for an old hatred. Unfortunately, the assassin also had old hatreds and attacked the father instead. While the son struggled with the assassin, the guards shot at them and also hit Three Trees Together. The guards arrested George Junior and the Cheyenne went home.
In this novel, Storm Arriving knows that the white men will attack in the spring and suggests that the Cheyenne Alliance start preparing for war during the winter rather than waiting for the thaw as they would normally do. He also suggests that the Cheyenne approach the Crow, their old enemies, with the offer of an alliance. Some of the Cheyenne leaders are vehemently opposed to such changes and refuse to accept his leadership. Others follow him, but falter after the long campaign, and some few, both Cheyenne and Crow, are totally committed to him.
George Junior, called One Who Flies by the Cheyenne, is finally released from prison and makes a pilgrimage to the burial site of Three Trees Together; after grieving for his old mentor, George takes the old medicine bag as a memento and rides northeast to the territory of the white men. His beloved Mouse Road, the sister of Storm Arriving, regrets her harsh words to One Who Flies and realizes that she must let him be different from other men; she decides to search for him. Speaks While Leaving, the wife of Storm Arriving, goes with her and takes the infant Blue Shell Woman with them.
In Washington, Silveira's role in the assassination plot is revealed and he is recalled by the Spanish Viceroy. George Senior is struggling to regain his abilities to talk and walk. With the President's disability, Levi Morton, the Vice President, assumes the duties of the Presidency and increases military pressure against the Cheyenne, even resuming attacks against the women and children. Morton also increases aid to Cuban rebels fighting for independence from Spain.
This story shows George Armstrong Custer Junior as a defeated and despondent man while George Armstrong Custer Senior is determined to overcome his handicaps. Of course, George Senior has Libby, his wife of twenty-eight years, standing by his side and supporting him when he falters. George Junior, however, thinks that he has lost the love of Mouse Road even after she and Speaks While Leaving follow him to the town of New Republic.
This segment shows the Cheyenne beginning to change their ways to adapt to the pressure of the white men. They had already been using the weapons of the white men, but now Storm Arriving also starts to adopt some of the tactics of their enemy. Moreover, he sees other changes that must occur if the Cheyenne are to survive, as do Speaks While Leaving and One Who Flies.
This novel is an excellent example of an alternate history fantasy, similar in many ways to Turtledove's Thessalonica. The basic framework is historical, but with religious elements and other fantastic aspects intermingled with the history. In this case, the author presents a very different perspective on US society in the interval between the Civil War and the Spanish-American War.
Highly recommended for Giambastiani fans and for anyone else for enjoys tales of various cultures with different socioeconomic structures and technological levels adjusting to each other.
-Arthur W. Jordin