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Book Review: Cruel Curse: Mark of the Bloody Seven by Del Huntsman

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Del Huntsman delivers an exceptional historical novel set in the aftermath of the Civil War during the expansion and development of the American frontier. Cruel Curse is an action-packed, character-driven, western adventure bonanza, an unforgettable story of survival, revenge, remorse, and recovery.

Protagonist Jim McBride’s conscientiousness is awakened by the atrocities of war and the unpardonable actions of a few irresponsible military leaders. When he approaches his unprincipled Army Captain, Leyden Graves, with a request for early release from his enlistment, a volatile confrontation occurs that leaves Graves permanently disfigured, physically and emotionally. Falsely accused of desertion and accosting an officer, McBride flees to seek freedom in the new territory of New Mexico.

The narrative is told in layers of backstories that move the plot forward. Jim McBride realizes that Leyden Graves is unrelenting in his pursuit to fulfill his threatened revenge. A series of events lead to a turn of the tables of revenge during which Jim saves a Navajo woman from a life of oppression and servitude and falls in love with her. Ultimately McBride faces Graves in a final match that only one man can win. Huntsman graphically describes the depths of man’s depravity depicted in scenes of torture, mutilation, and death motivated by a crazed and ruthless madman.

Huntsman’s love for the Southwest, the landscape, history, and lore give him sensitivity to the feelings of this era in America’s history. His descriptive word pictures add a whole new dimension to the historical and geographical background information developed throughout the novel. He also has keen insight into the ways, customs, rituals, and lore of the Navajo people.

With the use of vintage imaging and collodion photography, Denny Karchner and William Dunniway bring the characters to life in an exciting unique way.

Cruel Curse is a story of remorse, survival, and restoration. I was left with a lingering reminder of the impact of hope, perseverance, and compassion over injustice, indifference, and depravity.

Del Huntsman captures the emotions of fear, hatred, and compassion in a stirring, unforgettable story of intrigue and suspense. He brings a whole new fresh approach to the “Western” genre of writing. This is bold strong writing. The captivating drama held my attention throughout. Cruel Curse is a fast-moving page turner.

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