Deemed "America's Favorite Frontier Writer", Louis L'Amour's chronicle of the fictional Sackett family was a bestselling series. Beginning in 1960, the 17-book series is still held in high regard with fans of the western genre. While the novels focus on frontier life in the 1800s, the author began envisioning the Sackett family's early origins in England and America. Starting with 1974's "Sackett's Land", L'Amour wrote four novels that showcases the family's humble beginnings in the late 1500s through 1620. The fourth and final of these portfolio installments was "Jubal Sackett", published in 1985.
Both "Sackett's Land" and its successor, "To the Far Blue Mountains", feature Barnabas Sackett's expedition from England to eastern America. In "The Warrior's Path", Barnabas' sons Kin-Ring and Yance are the chief protagonists with much of the action taking place in America and the Caribbean Islands. While Barnabas' son Jubal is mentioned in these books, it is explained to readers that he was a loner and distanced himself from his family. Jubal was obsessed with exploring the far west and walking "where no white-man had ever wandered". It's only fitting that L'Amour dedicated a full-length novel to this fascinating character.
As the book opens, Jubal Sackett is hunting in an area that would later be called Tennessee. After a brief attack by an Indian, Jubal generously welcomes the brave to dine with him. The man introduces himself as Keokotah, a Kickapoo native. After learning Jubal's name, Keokotah informs him that his father Barnabas was killed in battle. The two become friends and decide to journey into the “Far Seeing Lands” west of the Mississippi River. On the journey, the two educate each other on hunting, rituals and their family history. L'Amour centers these exchanges as a focal point for much of the paperback’s first-half.
Later, the two journeymen meet a tribe of Natchee that ask Jubal for a favor. Their tribe's high priestess, Itchakomi, has left the fold and is desired by one of their chief warriors, an arrogant man named Kapata. The Natchee feel that if Jubal is headed further west, he will find Itchakomi and can ask her to return home to marry Kapata. Jubal eventually meets Itchakomi and the two fall in love. The author's second-half portrays Jubal's defense of Itchakomi from Kapata but also warring factions from Spain.
In a lot of ways, this novel's second-half resembles “To the Far Blue Mountains” in the way that Jubal and his allies build and defend a fort. As the waves of attacks descend on Jubal's home, it's reminiscent of the British pirates and warlike tribes that Barnabas fought that will seem a little familiar to the reader.
At 350+ pages, there's an epic feel to the novel as readers experience many seasons with Jubal, including hunting, expanding his circle of friends and allies, and contending with nature's harsh oppression in high altitudes. With exciting hand-to-hand skirmishes with Indians, blade duels with the Spanish and fierce combat with savage animals, “Jubal Sackett” is the quintessential wilderness tale. I highly recommend all four of these early Sackett adventures, but place this one just a little higher than “The Warrior's Path” in terms of epic escapism. In the book's closing notes, L'Amour explained to readers that more early Sackett adventures were to follow, including the family's participation in America's Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Sadly, L'Amour passed away in 1988 and was unable to continue his storytelling. What remains is a powerful testament to America's early exploration and strong independence.
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