September 10, 2001 12:00 PM

by Michael Blake

Critics carped that Michael Blake’s 1988 novel Dances with Wolves read more like a screenplay than a work of literature, and Kevin Costner proved them right with his 1990 Oscar-winning film adaptation. For The Holy Road—the sequel that takes place 11 years into the white soldier John Dunbar’s life as a Comanche warrior—Blake added some meat to his bare-bones technique. Evocative and at times eloquent, the novel reflects on the Native Americans’ last stand against white civilization on the frontier, “where the wind blows free and there is nothing to break the light of the sun.”

Disappointingly, the improved prose can’t overcome flat characters: Dances with Wolves, that huggable warrior, is joined by Comanches who might as well have been named Fights Like Fire, Whimpers for Peace and Learns to Get Serious. The climactic battles work, but the outcome is predictable. (Villard, $24.95)

Bottom Line: Not-so-new frontier

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