Thursday, October 26, 2023

Historical Fiction Review: First Dark - A Buffalo Soldier's Story by Bob Rogers

This week, I have a couple of historical fiction novels to share you!  As part of the tour for Two Rivers: De Trouble I Be See, I had the oppotunity to review both Two Rivers by Bob Rogers and his earlier novel:  First Dark - A Buffalo Soldier's Story.  Today, I would like to share my review of First Dark!  Check out the book, read my thoughts, learn about the author & enter for a chance to win a prize in the book tour giveaway at the end of this post.

​Book Title:  First Dark: A Buffalo Soldier's Story by Bob Rogers
Category:  Adult Fiction (18 +),  516 pages
GenreHistorical Fiction 
Publisher:  BookLocker
Release date:  September 19, 2015
Content RatingR

"The book ... is an impressive feat of historical fiction, offering many traditionally underrepresented perspectives in a sprawling work of love and warfare." -- Kirkus Reviews                  

"An ambitious and lush tale set during the Civil War and Reconstruction." -- 
Kirkus Reviews

"The Gripping saga of Isaac Rice is a hero's journey. [Don't] be surprised if First Dark ends up as a popular movie. It's also a darn good read."
Baltimore Post-Examiner

"First Dark is a powerful story of the underbelly of American history that has been carefully researched and written. Characters are well-developed and believable, and the dialogue and description throughout the book are brilliant." -- Reader's Favorite

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About the Book

First Dark is a coming-of-age story, an epic adventure, and a compelling examination of the primary feelings that drive human nature – hate, hope, desire, love, loss, grief, revenge, and forgiveness – as seen by Apache, black, Mexican, and white young adults during and shortly after America’s Uncivil War.

The San Francisco Review described Bob Rogers as a rising author who takes readers back to life and times in the early years of the Civil War, blending a brilliant mix of historic persons with his fictional characters. Celebrating the sesquicentennial year of the famed Buffalo Soldiers, Bob Rogers delivers his most ambitious work yet–a novel that spans their first generation–from Charleston and Vicksburg to Appomattox and desert Apache battlefields.

First came dark days that beset Isaac Rice's epic journey–America’s wars to settle the "Negro and Indian problems.”

First Dark: A Buffalo Soldier’s Story–Sesquicentennial Edition (with a foreword by General (Ret) Lloyd “Fig” Newton) is an historically correct action novel that follows Isaac Rice, the Tenth Cavalry, and the women who love him. His nineteenth century saga begins in Charleston and contributes to the story of how twenty-first century America came to be. Telling Isaac’s story, Rogers surrounds a host of diverse fictional characters with an impressive nonfiction cast, including historic political, military, religious figures, and entrepreneurs of that era.

Subsequent volumes follow Isaac’s descendants, ordinary nineteenth and twentieth century working people, into and out of calamities–recessions, panics, droughts, world wars, a depression, natural disasters, and the division of people by race, class, and caste. The view through their eyes serves to enhance twenty-first century readers’ understanding of “how things got this way” in America.

Isaac Rice, a teenager on a South Carolina rice plantation, traveling alone, follows a treacherous waterborne route filled with incredible hardships and danger to escape from slavery. Too young to be a soldier, the Union Army hires him to shovel coal on a gunboat. Thus begins Isaac’s westward journey, in which he encounters storms, stampeding buffalo, and the hate of zealous patriots whose causes are antithetical to the nation he is sworn to defend. Undaunted, he pursues respect and dignity on an odyssey from the middle of the Civil War in South Carolina’s Low Country and the Mississippi Heartland, to the Indian Wars on the Great Plains and deserts of Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico.

Isaac’s is an epic tale of young North Americans coming of age amid the violence of the U.S. Civil War, Indian Wars, Reconstruction, and spillover bloodshed from a Mexican Revolution. Telling Isaac’s story required extensive research of 19th and 20th century books, official documents, and letters, plus multiple visits to relevant geographic locations over a period of twenty years.

A memorable set of characters revolve around Isaac–a Confederate guerilla, a black female activist in a Mississippi Constitutional Convention, a Mescalero Apache warrior, a white Union cavalry sergeant, and a Mexican nurse–who raise their voices and bare their souls as the world they seek constantly changes, bringing tragedy to their lives and danger for Isaac.
My Review

Rogers Creates a Realistic Look at Coming of Age During a Difficult Time in History. The author's well-researched, well-drawn writing style gives readers a realistic account of Isaac's story. As the storyline flows, the author adds historically accurate details and political and social figures that add to the novel's drama, emotions, and depth. While fictional, it's easy to fall into Isaac's world and root for positive outcomes at every juncture. 


The Gullah Dialect Brought a Learning Curve. I struggled with the dialect and phrases for a while before learning the words and phrases and making the proper connections in my mind. Gaining comfort with the dialect was the biggest hurdle for me--but once I gained familiarity with the phrasing, the author's consistent style and word choices added to the vivid setting and historical context.   


Strong Characters Tell a Strong Story. I loved the diverse cast of well-developed characters that Rogers wove into Isaac's story. Every character played a part in the action-packed drama and emotional journey. Characters from various backgrounds and cultures come together in this novel to engage and even educate readers about the struggles of this time in history.


Would I Recommend First Dark - A Buffalo Soldier's Story by Bob Rogers? I am not always a Civil War novel fan; this one brings a different perspective to the stories and characters I've read in the past. If you enjoy realistic, historical fiction that pulls you into the past and stays with you beyond the last page--this is an excellent, fast-paced, emotional journey into our past. Be patient for a few chapters as you settle into the dialect and historical context--you will be glad you did!

Buy the Book 
 Check out this novel from the author too...

​Book Title:  Two Rivers: De Trouble I Be See by Bob Rogers
Category:  Adult Fiction (18 +),  333 pages
GenreHistorical Fiction 
Publisher:  BookLocker
Release date:  June 19, 2023
Content RatingRMy book is rated R because of foul language, rape, infanticide, and homicide.

"Rogers...tells the story [in Two Rivers] with the restraint of a gifted writer. Very highly recommended." - Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

"[Two Rivers is] a fast-paced tale of enslaved people in a land on the brink of war...a novel about the iniquities of slavery in pre-Civil War South Carolina." - Kirkus Reviews

"For me, the standout feature of the work is its ensemble cast and the passion and emotional intelligence that [Bob] Rogers displays in crafting so many different, realistic, and fully fleshed-out viewpoints...Two Rivers is intricately penned with much to experience, be intrigued by, and learn from." - K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite
About the Book

Rich with history, the geriatric romance in Two Rivers entertains and educates. Without fear of causing “discomfort” to some, Two Rivers takes us deep into the lives of two peoples—Africans and Europeans—in 1854 near Charleston, South Carolina.

In Two Rivers, the parallel courtships of enslaved widow Ella wooing 84-year-old widower Posey and Tiffany Plantation manager James’ pursuit of Jacqueline, daughter of a bank president, reveals the side-by-side lifestyles of enslavers and the enslaved.

Attorney James’ dream was to join the elite planter-banker class by any means necessary. Rebuffed by Congressman William Aiken’s daughter, James turned to Jacqueline. Meanwhile, Angolan Ella was determined to marry Posey, whose ancestry was Igbo.

Though enemies from the day James arrived, both Posey and James respected Senator John C. Calhoun—but for vastly different reasons. For James, Calhoun represented the “rule-maker class” he wanted to join. Posey welcomed Calhoun’s prediction of war between white people.

By 1854, the Tiffany family had enslaved over 300 Africans for more than a century on the 1,100-acre slave labor camp that they called the Tiffany Plantation. The Tiffanys were the largest rice producer in South Carolina’s Colleton District. While the toil of enslaved Africans earned untold riches for the Tiffanys, the Africans endured violence inflicted to force increased rice production and profits followed by the indignity of the bodies of loved ones being stolen from their graves and delivered to a medical school.

Rich with history and a cast of unforgettable characters, Two Rivers is a sweeping saga of two peoples—European immigrants and African abductees. Together, they experience courtships, infanticide, homicide, rape, rebellions, revenge, sabotage, storms, high-stakes gambling, grave-robbing, counterfeiting, slave mortgage-backed securities, and more.

“De troubles Posey be sees” in Two Rivers reminds one of Southern Gothic

Buy the Book

Meet the Author
Bob Rogers is the author of the historical novels First Dark and The Laced Chameleon, which earned critical acclaim from Kirkus Reviews, San Francisco Review, and Baltimore Examiner. Bob is a meticulous researcher, known to spend extra time, magnifying glass in hand, deciphering 18th and 19th-century handwriting for “just the facts, ma’am.” Bob, a former U.S. Army captain and combat leader during the Vietnam War in Troop A, 1/10 Cavalry, finds his topographic experiences useful in field research. If not closeted in libraries or museums, you are likely to find him walking centuries-old rice fields, battlefields, or in a canoe following the river trails of his characters.
He studied at South Carolina State University and the University of Maryland.
Bob tends his flowers, okra, and tomato plants in Mérida, Yucatán, México.

connect with the author:  
Enter the Giveaway

Two Rivers: De Trouble I Be See by Bob Rogers Book Tour Giveaway

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