Review by Robb Hoff
I hadn't read a James Alexander Thom historical novel since I devoured Panther in the Sky 25 years ago, and was glad I found the time to read this 500+ page tome!
I was drawn to The Children of First Man because of its chronicle about the Welsh Prince Madoc and his colony in America along the Tennessee River in the 12th century. Madoc and his legacy emerge in my own work, Contract With The Lycanthrope, and figure prominently in its work-in-progress sequel.
But even without this research interest, I would've marveled none the less at the saga that Thom details, starting with Madoc's journey from North Wales and back then his escape from Welsh civil war to return to North America and permanently settle with his colonists. The book teems with the excitement of the discovery, encounters, and legacy of Madoc from the Gulf of Mexico, the Tennessee River, and then both the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
The generational portraits of Madoc and the Welsh descendants in their assimilation and conflicts with Native Americans and eventual European arrivals are truly "Shadow Catcher" worthy, as the Mandan descendants of the "First Man" Madoc come to call the artist George Caitlin, whose passion to preserve the dying history bookends this truly amazing work.
Anyone with interest in the historical twist framed by the legend of Madoc and the Welsh White Indians would love this book, but even more than that, those who enjoy American history prior to the Civil War would find this unusual testament most fascinating.