Friday, March 24, 2006

Summer of the Midnight Sun: The Alaskan Quest Begins

Tracie Peterson’s new series “Alaskan Quest” gets off to a good start with the first book, Summer of the Midnight Sun. Set in 1915, in and around Nome, Alaska, the story continues with some of the characters from Peterson’s earlier “Yukon Quest” series. Seventeen years have passed since that series ended, and the Barringer children, Jacob and Leah, are the focus of this new series. Leah has just turned 30, and she and her brother, both still unmarried, live and trade among the natives at Last Chance Creek, a remote village a few days journey from Nome.

The world of 1915 is present, but remote to the people of Alaska, who hear in the news about World War I and the Lusitania, yet are still living as they have for years – a place largely untouched by the technological changes of the early 20th century. Closer to home, Leah struggles with singleness at 30, even as the one man who rejected her love, Jayce Kincaid, returns to Last Chance Creek. Predictably, the two rediscover their love for each other, yet it makes for an entertaining and enjoyable part of the story.

The bigger story involves Helaina Beachman, sent from Washington D.C. to investigate and capture a criminal who goes by the name of Jayce Kincaid. Widowed due to her husband’s violent death, Helaina copes with her problems by her obsession with justice and the law, without room for mercy. She soon finds the Barringers and Jayce, while discovering that the crime facts don’t seem to fit the man she has found, and makes a nuisance of herself while trying to hide her real mission. Yet through her adventures, Helaina is challenged by the Christian message and the idea of mercy.

Summer of the Midnight Sun has an interesting, action-filled plot, along with likeable characters. Fans of Peterson’s earlier “Yukon Quest” series will also enjoy the return of Karen and Adrik Ivankov, now living happily with their children in Sitka, Alaska. The story, which takes place during the warmer months of May through September, also includes many details of life in Alaska, including the types of clothes, food, and the difficulties presented by the weather during the darker part of the year. The main plot lines are all resolved within this first book of “Alaskan Quest,” but with a cliff-hanging ploy sure to entice readers back for the sequel, the ending develops a new plot that leaves the characters in mortal danger. We must wait at least a few months to continue the adventure, but Summer of the Midnight Sun is off to a great series start.