Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Iron Pioneers: The Marquette Trilogy Book One by Tyler R. Tichelaar
Published February 2006
Trade Paperback, 480 pages
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I chose this book for review. Its cover, its title or the fact that it’s nearly 500 pages long didn’t initially attract me, but the reviews were very good—not that this always affects the books I choose to read. Well, am I ever glad not to have let these factors stop me from reading an author whom I now consider a master storyteller!
Iron Pioneers is a multigenerational saga, an old-fashioned epic novel not written by many authors today. Taking us back to 1849, this historical fiction tells the story of a handful of courageous men and women who travel to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to settle where iron ore is discovered in Marquette, a small village that would grow into a booming city by the end of that century.
I knew nothing of Marquette or its history and although it’s interesting as is most places that have shaped what is now North America (USA and Canada), this is definitely a character-driven novel. Not only has Tichelaar brought Marquette’s history to life so that even this new land with its bountiful lush forests and breathtaking Lake Superior plays an important role, almost a character in itself, that influences the lives of all who settle there, but he has succeeded in creating a superb cast of colourful characters whom readers will love to love or love to hate for that matter.
We follow several families whose lives intertwine, regardless of social status, in ways that some of them never suspected. We meet the Hennings, whose family head Gerald, a wealthy businessman from Boston taps into the iron industry early on and makes a fortune—a fortune that proves worthless compared to the losses he will face. The Brookfields are a tour de force in the town, shaping its values and loyalty toward their country. The Bergmanns demonstrate that despite the great sacrifices one makes immigrating to a new unknown land, their newfound freedom is worth the cost as a prosperous future opens up before them and their future generations.
I especially liked the way Tichelaar blended these fictional characters with actual historical figures, making the reader almost believe this account was a true rendering of the pioneers. This could only be done because of meticulous research, adding to my enjoyment of this book. The story’s ending left me wanting though, so of course, I can’t wait to read the second and third books in this trilogy, The Queen City and Superior Heritage. This author has also written two other historical fiction novels that are on my TBR list: Narrow Lives and The Only Thing That Lasts.
If you are a fan of American historical novels, this book will not disappoint. On the contrary, it will leave you thirsting for more.
Disclosure: Thanks to ReviewTheBook.com for sending this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.