When Caleb Shaw’s parents died and left him the farm, the last thing the young man wanted was to be a farmer. He was a boy with an itch in his feet and he wanted to explore this great country he lived in – The United States of America in the mid 1800’s. In Fort Sarpy, by Dave Lloyd, we follow the adventures of Caleb and his comrades as they head up into the great wilderness that was the upper reaches of the Missouri River. Selling the farm to his neighbour, Caleb stops off in St Louis, where he meets some wonderful friends and learns some valuable lessons that will serve him well when he reaches Fort Sarpy and deals with the rough and ready men who made up the frontier with the Indians, that was serviced by the American Fur Company. At Fort Sarpy Caleb will become a man, a true mountain man and one who will face danger and excitement from the Crow, the Blackfeet, the Sioux, and even his fellow adventurers.
Fort Sarpy is an excellently researched novel and Dave Lloyd has clearly done his homework on this period of American history. At its heart, Fort Sarpy is a coming of age novel and I found the character of Caleb Shaw both compelling and believable. Some of the best characters in this book were the supporting cast, especially the stuffy Englishman Palmer and the flamboyant French chef and violin player. This was a taut, well written adventure with action coming thick and fast. The sign of a good historical novel is that it actually transports the reader to that time and place and allows the reader to feel the pain and privations suffered by the characters. Dave Lloyd has done this exceptionally well. I look forward to reading more of this period and in this saga from the author.