Saturday, October 13, 2001

Ashes and Ice: the Yukon Quest continues

Tracie Peterson’s "Yukon Quest" historical fiction trilogy continues with the second installment, Ashes and Ice. Settled in 1898 Alaska, Karen Pierce quickly faces many tragedies that threaten to turn her from God. Soon comparing herself to Job, Karen turns an angry face towards God for allowing all the sorrows that have come upon her. Through her dark experiences, literally from Ashes to Ice, Karen must learn forgiveness, trusting in the sovereignty of God and His justice.

Grace and Peter Colton have settled in San Francisco near Peter’s parents and sister. Yet being unequally yoked, conflict soon disrupts their marriage; Peter wants nothing to do with God. Martin Paxton remains more in the background, but his influence is far from over. His evil deeds still live on in the memories of those he has hurt, driving them to bitterness, suspicion and vengeance.

Faced with the care of two abandoned children, Karen finds she cannot easily return to the States, especially when one of the children departs to the north. She finds nothing to keep her waiting in Skagway, and Adrik Ivankov agrees to accompany the party north towards Dawson (in northern Canada). Introduced in the previous novel, Adrik helps bring healing and order to Karen’s chaotic world. But will she understand and accept his love for her?

In the background, and seemingly very far away, are the world events of 1898, most notable of which is the Spanish-American War, including brief mention of what happened to the Maine. Of course, the immediate surroundings are more pressing for the group traveling along the Chilkoot Trail north through the Yukon. Ashes and Ice mentions several towns, including Lindeman, Bennett, Whitehorse, and Dawson. Among the estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people who traveled along this path during the Gold Rush (1896-1899), Adrik and company face the many historical problems along the way, including the dangers of navigating the Yukon River and scaling steep mountains. The mountains prove easier to pass during the winter, over hard-packed snow and ice steps, than in the soggy summer. Due to the Gold Rush Stampeders, trees for good boat-building are scarce, and medicine is even scarcer. The Canadian government required each person to carry a year’s supply of food with them, but other supplies needed come at outrageous costs: a dozen eggs for $25, two eggs for $1, a pint of whiskey for ten dollars.

As with Treasures of the North, this second story also ends with many questions and problems, leaving the reader hanging for the third part (to be published in February 2002). Having read this far, I eagerly await the concluding story.

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