Fort Sarpy

Volume 2 of the Riverboat series

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
296 Pages
Reviewed on 11/22/2017
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Arya Fomonyuy for Readers' Favorite

I love books with great openings, because the opening is always a promise. But what happens after that determines the storytelling skills of the author. Lyrical and engaging, Fort Sarpy, the second book in the Riverboat series by Dave Lloyd has a gripping opening with powerful images flowing through the unique diction and the highly descriptive prose. The reader is immediately introduced to the image of the river and the reminiscences of one of the key characters: “This river was like an obstinate mule that Caleb remembered from his days on the farm, one that would sit down in its traces and refuse, absolutely, to continue with the day's work.”

This historical novel tells the story around the American Fur Company’s most dangerous post, a fort constructed along the Yellowstone River in 1850, intended to provide trade to the Crow tribe. The reader is introduced to Robert Meldrum, one of the pioneer white men to settle in the wilderness with the Crows. The adventures and clash of cultures, the austerity of life, and the cultural implications of the move are so masterfully explored in this historical novel.

It is spellbinding and laced with wonderful historical elements. The social and political commentaries are awesome and the reader has the feeling of being thrust, head first, into a historical era with warring Indians and people cut off from the world, surviving the wilderness in many creative ways. Fort Sarpy is deftly plotted, expertly written, and balanced. I enjoyed Dave Lloyd’s unique writing, the captivating phraseology, and his singular signature for both plot and character. An enticing read, indeed!

Karen Walpole

Fort Sarpy by Dave Lloyd tells the story of a teenage boy growing into manhood as he deals with losing his parents and begins a life of danger and adventure during the early 1850s in the American West. The tale is based on the actual history of a trading fort built by the American Fur Company on the Yellowstone River in Montana. Said to have been the most dangerous post of the time, it was built to trade with the Crow Indians in the region. Young Caleb Shaw signs on to help build Fort Sarpy and travels up river on a steamboat with the rest of the working crew. The company builds the trading post over the next many months, during which they become friendly with the Crow Tribe nearby and have run-ins with warring parties from the Black Feet and Sioux tribes. Despite the precarious location and tremendous hardship, Fort Sarpy becomes a successful trading post. Young Caleb becomes a seasoned and accomplished mountain man and is eventually invaluable to the company.

Dave Lloyd has a clear narrative style full of daily life detail, well defined characters and the relationships between them. For lovers of American historical fiction, the story describes the lives of the people in that place and time very well. Seeing the history of that time through the eyes of a very young man, alone for the first time in his life, clearly reveals to the reader what it was like to live in 1850 in the wildness of Montana. Fort Sarpy is the first in a series of books written about the steamboat era in the United States. I would be interested in reading more books in the series.

Grant Leishman

When Caleb Shaw’s parents died and left him the farm, the last thing the young man wanted was to be a farmer. He was a boy with an itch in his feet and he wanted to explore this great country he lived in – the United States of America in the mid 1800s. In Fort Sarpy by Dave Lloyd, we follow the adventures of Caleb and his comrades as they head up into the great wilderness that was the upper reaches of the Missouri River. Selling the farm to his neighbour, Caleb stops off in St Louis, where he meets some wonderful friends. He also learns some valuable lessons that will serve him well when he reaches Fort Sarpy and deals with the rough and ready men who made up the frontier with the Indians, that was serviced by the American Fur Company. At Fort Sarpy, Caleb will become a man, a true mountain man and one who will face danger and excitement from the Crow, the Blackfeet, the Sioux, and even his fellow adventurers.

Fort Sarpy is an excellently researched novel and Dave Lloyd has clearly done his homework on this period of American history. At its heart, Fort Sarpy is a coming of age novel and I found the character of Caleb Shaw both compelling and believable. Some of the best characters in this book were found in the supporting cast, especially the stuffy Englishman Palmer and the flamboyant French chef and violin player. This was a taut, well written adventure with action coming thick and fast. The sign of a good historical novel is that it actually transports the reader to that time and place, and allows the reader to feel the pain and privations suffered by the characters. Dave Lloyd has done this exceptionally well. I look forward to reading more of this period and in this saga from the author.