Let me state for the record that I very much enjoyed reading this book. There is a lot of majesty that the author has regarding the desert and the old west and it comes ringing through the pages of the book. I also became very attached to the main character Johannes Verne who's life we get to follow from age six to about 18 or 20. There were several wonderful characters in the book all of which I thought were beautifully portrayed although they did seem a bit 'larger than life' at times.
I was encouraged with several wonderful life lessons scattered throughout the book like this one:
"Is something wrong?"
"It is never easy to realize you have been a fool," I said.
"If you have done something foolish and realize it, then you are not quite the fool you were" (P 317)
"You are a hero!"Miss Nesselrode said positively.
Papa smiled at her."It is an empty word out here, ma'am. It is a word for writers and sitters by the fire. Out here a man does what the situation demands. Out on the frontier we do not have heroes, only people doing what is necessary at the time. " (P 30)
Johannes is constantly evaluating and re-evaluating his position and life, how many of us do the same? We see how he becomes a man and an excellent one through his self-education using the classics (although that point was more implicit than explicit) and his constant self-evaluation and his refusal to be mastered by fear.
Now all of that I enjoyed however I must critique the book as well. I found that although the climax buildup was riveting (and there were several hours of reading where I could not put the book down), the ending was somewhat disappointing as the author felt the need to tie absolutely every aspect of the book into a neat little bow. He brought virtually every character we ever met (or heard of) back into the ending of the book. I found that highly improbable and a little annoying. It seemed to me to be too much like the ending of a Seinfeld episode where all the story lines tend to converge at the end. (Not that I'm comparing the story to a Seinfeld story) Others may think it's clever, I find it improbable.
I also struggled early in the book as the six year old Johannes acted much closer to 17 than any child I had ever met, but I took that with a grain of salt as maybe six-year-olds of the time (and this one more than even those) were apt to be more mature then the ones I have taught on the soccer field. Still I found that difficult to believe
The characters all tended to be black or white. The Bad guys were too bad and the Good guys were too good. There were very few moral struggles and what few ones there were were over with quickly.
Lastly the book kept switching between 1st and 3rd person. Now I know I am being picky, but that started bugging me too. I'm no author but I always thought that was taboo.
All in all this was a good book, I'm happy to have read it, and I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good moral and uplifting story with characters they can get into. You will not be disappointed until you read the last words and realize that you cannot read any more about your new friend Johannes Verne.