Rich, beautiful, and pure-hearted heiress Jane Withersteen finds herself under attack and persecution from the members of her Mormon cult, lead by the fanatical Elder Tull. She has refused to marry the cold-blooded, controlling Mormon Elder, and takes interest in a dashing young cowboy named Bern Venters, a despised “gentile” according to the Mormons.
When Tull and his henchmen close in on her and intend to brutally punish Venters, a mysterious gunman by the name of Lassiter appears, and drives out the fanatics on pain of death. But the day is not yet saved, not by a long shot. Tull swears revenge, and Venters and Lassiter begin to suspect that Jane’s cattle herds are being disturbed by the paid lackeys of the Mormon Church. Lassiter stays close to Jane to protect her with his way of the gun, and Venters rides out to investigate, putting him on a long journey that will uncover secrets that will change him for the better or for the worse. Lassiter, meanwhile, has a personal quest of his own; find the bastard who killed Jane’s friend and fellow Mormon, Millie Erne…..
Zane Grey….the name is synonymous with western novels, and was reportedly a legendary writer. I had heard really good things about “Riders of the Purple Sage;” that it was one of the greatest western novels of all time, that it is the western by which all other westerns should be judged, that it was an epic and great literature, etc. But to be honest, I think I had my hopes set waaaay too high on this one.
Having read such rip-roaring westerns as Louis Lamour’s “Conagher,” Max Brand’s “The Untamed,” and Terry C. Johnston’s “Jonas Hook Trilogy,” I really expected this novel to be just as high-quality if not more so. I did like the characters and found that I cared for them; the innocent and kind-souled Jane Withersteen; the brash Venters; the dark, mysterious and tormented anti-hero Lassiter, and the plot of the story seemed solid and promising, but it just seemed to drag on and on in a rather torturous manner. The overly detailed OCD-like descriptions of nature and rock formations are so tedious that they make the over-descriptiveness of Tolkien’s work seem like something out of one of the old Golden Books I read as a little kid.
There is action, but not a lot of it. If you’re looking for fast-paced gunfights and bloody brawls, you won’t find much here. And the characters are so melodramatic that it would be almost laughable if it wasn’t so cringe-worthy.
This book isn’t even saved by the ending, which is quite disappointing and abrupt. Certainly not a western I will ever pick up again, even if I do try to read Zane Grey’s other works.
I give “Riders of the Purple Sage” by Zane Grey a 2.5 out of 5