THE SPARROWS OF MONTENEGRO
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Date of Publication: February 8, 2022
Number of Pages: 312 pages
Tree “Bigfoot” Smith and Cedar Jones first meet on the day they join the US Cavalry’s Fourth Cavalry Regiment based out of the Historic Fort Concho in what is now San Angelo, Texas, in 1870.
Their journey takes them into the heart of the dangerous Llano Estacado region known as the Comancheria. The area is ruthlessly defended by a band of Quahadi Comanche and their stoic leader, Lonely Horse. The Troop encounters a large group of Comanches and the gun-running Comancheros at Mushaway Mountain, close to Gail, Texas. A quick battle ensues that leaves eight men dead.
Post Cavalry life finds Tree Smith and Cedar Jones as cowhand and cook on the large Rolling J cattle ranch in South Texas bordering the Rio Grande River. The ranch employs two Vaqueros from the village of Montenegro in Mexico, just across the river, whom Tree befriends.
The quiet life on the Rolling J ranch is brought to an abrupt halt when a local sheriff warns that a band led by the cold-blooded, sadistic killer known as Gato Montes has been preying on the ranches along the Rio Grande. After the sheriff is nearly killed by these men, Tree is tasked with tracking them down, only this time, he is traveling alone and the dangers are greatly multiplied. His epic journey takes him back into the Llano Estacado where he is captured by Lonely Horse and taken to Mushaway Mountain where the Comanche carry out their own form of frontier justice.
Tree’s return journey puts him on the same path as Marco, a Mexican goat herder, who rides with him to the Mexican Village of Montenegro, where Tree meets Julia, who changes his life forever after he becomes involved in and bears witness to the wonderful celebration of Dia de los Muertos.
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK:
“I could not put this one down. Mayo has masterfully written a character-driven page-turner, a compelling tale for the reader who seeks something more than the stereotypical western novel.” —Ron Schwab, author of Goldsmith and the Law Wranglers series
“This mild-mannered west Texas rancher has woven a border tapestry using yarns made of unimaginable horror and sweet innocence.” —Tumbleweed Smith, author of Under the Chinaberry Tree
“A thoroughly enjoyable read—a cowboy’s trail you’ll want to follow, with a memorable cast of characters, renegades, soldiers, lawmen, and simple folks, and a hero that you’ll want more of.” —John J. Jacobson, author of All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone
Clueless Gent’s Rating for The Sparrows of Montenegro
The Sparrows of Montenegro is a western set in the late nineteenth century. It has all the elements of a classic western, yet includes some original characters.
The story centers on the life of Tree “Bigfoot” Smith, a tall character befitting of such a name, who initially battles some emotional conflicts from killing a man with his bare fist. He joins the US Cavalry and meets up with Cedar Jones. The two hit if off well, as Cedar helps Tree overcome his inner conflicts.
After their five-year stint in the military, they both end up on a ranch near the Mexican border, with Cedar being the cook and Tree being somewhat of a foreman. When a nasty gang of outlaws begins killing some locals, the sheriff enlists Tree to hunt them down.
I think the storyline is quite original. The leader of the gang has a terrifying trademark of running a foot-long spike through the necks of his victims, slicing off both ears, and sticking the loose ears on the tip of the spike. He is one mean hombre, being half Apache and half Mexican.
I did have a problem sometimes with the timeline and believability. For example, shortly after Tree and Cedar start their cavalry stint, they go on one patrol, and then the story skips five years ahead. Tree thinks of a fellow soldier who was shot in a little border town shortly after leaving the cavalry, saying how he really wanted to kill a Comanche if he had the chance. After five years in the cavalry, it seems logical (to me) that he would have had that chance.
Another example of believability came when the outlaw was fighting with someone. The author wrote, “He jabbed the spike into his jugular area without penetrating the skin but enough to make it bleed.” In my mind, if the skin wasn’t broken, where did the blood come from. Maybe it’s just me.
The pacing is consistent, but it tends to be on the slow side. However, it does speed up with the action. The climax happens about two-thirds of the way through the book. After the climax, the pacing is consistently slow through the end.
I thought the action scenes were very well described. Some might consider some scenes to be graphic, and they probably were, but that was the only way to describe what was going on. No need to sugar-coat it.
Shortly after the climax, it becomes more of a love story. I wasn’t expecting that, since there was none of it before the climax. However, the romance was handled very well, and the author did a great job of softening the tough characters enough to make them lovable.
I thought this to be a very unique story for this genre, and it was told well.
(US only. Ends 2/19/22).
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One thought on “The Sparrows of Montenegro”
Excellent & honest review — I’m reading the book now and agree that it’s really unique for the sub-genre. I’m enjoying the rich descriptions & characterization, too. Thanks for sharing!