Margaret Thompson offers a powerfully moving and historically accurate account of life in Fort St. James, in northern British Columbia, in the 1820s. Through the character of Peter, a young boy who is orphaned at the Fort, Thompson presents a vivid picture of the difficult life for both the fur traders and the Natives in what was then called the "Siberia" of the fur trade. Lonely and unsure of himself, Peter finds himself an eyewitness to a murder which threatens to destroy the good relations between the Company and the Carrier people. Through his friendship with the nephew of Chief Kwah of the Carrier, Peter comes to understand and sympathize with the Carrier culture, learning much about tolerance, compromise and acceptance, but also about the difficulties that divided loyalties can bring. Thompson also offers an innovative view of the role of women in the fur trade, painting a fascinating picture of the young James Douglas and his wife Amelia in the confrontation with Chief Kwah.