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Book Review

This review was created by the editorial staff at Thriving Family magazine

This historical Western fiction book is the fifth in the "Saga of the Sierras" series by Brock and Bodie Thoene and is published by Bethany House Publishers.

Cannons of the Comstock is written for people ages 15 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

In 1864, California is a mixture of Union supporters and Confederate sympathizers. Although Tom Dawson’s family is from Virginia, their sympathies are with the Union, and they are strongly opposed to slavery. After hearing of a Confederate secret society plot to seize control of California silver and gold mines, Tom infiltrates the group to supply information to the Union army.

As a spy, Tom is drawn into a dangerous game of deception that forces him to rely heavily on Mont James, a 9-year-old former slave. As Tom earns the trust of the leaders of the group and breaks up their plans to outfit a ship as a privateer, Mont is kidnapped and placed in an underground Chinese slavery ring. Later, after Mont escapes, he and Tom reunite to battle the Confederate sympathizers before someone escapes with the stolen gold shipments.

Christian Beliefs

While the main thrust of the book is the intrigue over the Confederate secret society, the authors do provide background on how churches split over the Civil War, even to the point of trying to out-sing each other during worship services. They describe the bitter feelings that divided congregations and neighbors as Christians tried to practice their faith. While a biblical text supporting slavery is used, in each scene this viewpoint loses to the biblical quotes that do not support slavery.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Although white and Chinese slaveholders play an important role in the story, they are depicted as evil.


The word n-gger is used a few times. Fight scenes include detailed descriptions of the attacks but are tame compared to what viewers may see on television or in movies.


The story details a mild romance between characters, but there is no kissing. A woman who is clearly viewed as having a bad character and being a Confederate sympathizer attempts a seduction.

Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • How does Tom’s sister-in-law, Emily, feel about the people in her church who agree with the Confederate cause instead of the Union stand?
  • What makes the congregation take sides against each other?
  • Could Pastor Swift have kept people from leaving their church? Emily’s sons, Jed and Nate, miss their friends who have left the church.
  • How could they have remained friends with the other boys?

  • How does Pastor Swift try to keep politics out of his church?

  • Why doesn’t his plan to keep people from talking about politics work?
  • Why do some Christians think slavery is okay?
  • Why do other Christians oppose it?

  • What happens to Nate when he tumbles into the Chinese underground?

  • How is the Chinese slavery operation different from the Southern plantation system?
  • Why does Nate have hope while the other slaves do not?
  • Was a belief in Jesus common in slave circles?
  • What Bible verse would you cling to if you were a slave like Mont?

  • Is California directly involved in the Civil War?

  • Why is California an important part of the Union victory?
  • What might have happened if the Confederate sympathizers had been able to form a Republic on the Pacific?
  • How would that have helped the Confederates?
  • How would it have hurt the Union army?

  • Where do many of the California settlers come from?

  • Are there any characters in the book that may have disagreed with slavery but agreed with the Confederate cause of protecting individual state power?

Additional Comments/Notes

Drugs: Opium and opium addicts are in some scenes, but the users are not portrayed in a positive light.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

15 and up


Brock Thoene, Bodie Thoene






Record Label



Bethany House Publishers


On Video

Year Published




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