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Beyond the Smoke

Review

Beyond the Smoke

Sixteen-year-old Bryan Wheeler knows something isn’t right about the smoke billowing in the distance from his family’s wagon train. Heading back from a hunt, he discovers a horrible scene. His parents and everyone else in the Oregon-bound group are dead, their burnt wagons still smoldering. Bryan grabs a few supplies and his mother’s Bible, quickly leaving before the raiders can return. Alone and grieving in the unfamiliar wilderness, Bryan will find friends and foes in the Indians, settlers and outlaws he encounters along the way to a destination unknown. Will Bryan’s faith and courage be enough to keep him alive as he journeys beyond the smoke?

If you like westerns, or have never read one, don’t miss this adventure-filled story of a boy who must find the inner strength to survive in an uncharted land where animals and people can be equally as dangerous. Fortunately for Bryan, he knows he is never really alone --- there is always someone he can turn to, even in the most desperate circumstances.

Bryan hardly has time to recover from the shock of the bloody wagon train massacre before he is attacked by a young Comanche. His fighting skills are no match for the rookie Indian warrior. Much to the Indian’s surprise, Bryan does not use the opportunity to seek revenge, even though he knows the Comanche warriors were responsible for the wagon train murders. In this and every situation, Bryan combines his survival skills with spiritual guidance to do what’s necessary, but also what’s right in God’s eyes. This mindset leads him into and out of a series of exciting scenes that keep the reader wanting more. It also serves to paint a clear picture of the main character, a likable, smart and caring guy who is tough and cunning when circumstances dictate the need for such traits. Bryan’s depth of character is matched by the secondary characters as well, including the odious Fat Jack, who holds him captive along with an Indian girl named Morning Star. The two become fast friends and plan a successful escape.

Not all of Bryan’s encounters in the western wilderness turn out to be unpleasant. When he meets “the professor,” a traveling pharmacist and his teen assistant, Carol Sue, life begins to look a little brighter. The good times are short-lived, however, when the threesome stop in a small town, where the “good guys” aren’t quite what they seem. False accusations and corrupt officials place the professor in a work camp for criminals, while Carol Sue is headed for an orphanage and Bryan finds himself running from the law. He must save his newfound friends and clear his name --- daunting tasks for an orphaned teenager with nothing but his faith and a gun.    

Author and literary agent Terry Burns is known for his “inspirational fiction with a western flair.” BEYOND THE SMOKE is his second book for teens (following TRAILS OF THE DIME NOVEL) and is certainly a compelling, exciting and successful faith-based adventure.

Reviewed by Susan Miura on January 1, 2009

Beyond the Smoke
by Terry W. Burns

  • Publication Date: January 1, 2009
  • Genres: Christian, Western
  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: JourneyForth
  • ISBN-10: 1591669294
  • ISBN-13: 9781591669296