By: Olivia Godat
Published by: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: December 2021
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
In 1664, Don Rafael Montez was provided a land grant by King Philip IV as a reward for his service to the Crown. He led his people from Mexico to settle in the north, in a place called Nueva Mejico. Rafael’s wife, Dona Isabella, and her handmaid, Marta, rode in the carriage. One evening, when they stopped to rest, a Tejas Indian stumbled across the pilgrims and ended up seeing Isabella in her blue dress; the Indian immediately saw her and knelt down, as if she was a goddess.
Old Pedro, their guide, spoke to them about the painting “La Dama de Azul” and the Indian folklore that this “Lady in Blue” had been a Spanish nun, whose spirit traveled to New Mexico where she taught the Indians about the Holy Faith. Because of this long held belief, the Indians took care of these colonists. And, when Isabella birthed her children, with the help of Morning Star, she and Rafael named them Diego and Estrella. Thanking the Indians, Rafael gave them the blue dress, which they cut into strips and then tied around their heads, allowing the ‘Lady’ to protect them during the times of battle. The Indians also named the special children Storm Cloud (Diego) and Rainbow (Estrella), giving them thanks and praise.
Fast forwarding to 1680, the Indians waged many battles, one was a war called "The Pueblo Rebellion of 1680." In the midst of this huge battle, Diego and his twin sister faced a life-changing event. An Apache warrior kidnapped Estrella. Diego rescued her and they took refuge on the Blue Mesa – a sacred mountain of the Pueblo Nation. Here, a strong wind takes Diego and his horse and leads them...to the 21st century. Although he finds himself in El Paso, Texas, Diego learns all about the present and works hard to return to 1680 in order to warn his people what the future holds.
The difficulties and the leaden responsibilities of what the young man will do to get back home, no matter how hard it will be, makes for a stunning, emotional story that is impossible to forget. But the author provides more than just a well-thought-out plot. You can tell from the spot-on depictions of the characters, the tribe, as well as the surrounding area, that she is a person who has set her own eyes on one of the most beautiful areas of America that exists today. From the bright red colors of the New Mexican earth, itself, to the lone landscapes that can make a person feel exceedingly small, Ms. Godat has put together a “visual map” that draws the reader into the story and keeps them there. In addition, the Native American history, as well as their customs and beliefs, are strong and have lasted hundreds of years. This is one of a few authors who was able to present those characters and their daily lives in the correct “tone” of voice, giving them the honor they rightfully deserve.
Quill says: Author Olivia Godat does a great job of bringing the reader into the Southwestern U.S. and mixing the past and present with incredibly rich and unforgettable characters! 5-Stars!