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Gerald's Book Reviews

Pre Colonization Era

The War Trail North
Robert J. Conely
University of Oklahoma Press

(Five Stars)

What can I say? You simply can't go wrong with Robert Conley. His books are easy to read and interesting. I've read this one twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times. It tells the story of a Cherokee warrior's trip northward into Iroquois territority to avenge the death of his brother.
If you haven't read one of his books, you need to start

Colonial Era

Ashes in the Wilderness
William G. Schofield.
Copyright 1942

Three Stars

If you’re looking for a good novel about King Philip’s War, this could be right up your alley. However, if you’re one of those people easily offended by racism, you probably want to pass this one by. Set in the 1600s and told entirely from the English perspective, the author is able to bring out the prejudice and nuances of the period - white is good, red is bad. This is brought out almost comically in one scene when Ben Church tells the captured Narragansett sachem Canonchet, “You’re too good a man to die. I’ve heard Captain Williams say you’re as white as any Englishman - that you never lie and never cheat and always fight fairly. We don’t want to kill you but you make it so we’ll have to.”

Without making this mindset in the characters clear, you’ll never understand the friction between Philip and the English and so it does make sense to use it. However, since this was originally published in 1942, the author lets it go a little too far. He uses words like redskin and savage when referring to the Native Americans. If this book were rewritten and updated, it could easily be a Five Star story, as it is, it get a well-deserved Three Star rating.

White Rising
Zane Kotker
Alfred A. Knopf; (1981)

(Three Stars)

This is a good novel about a rarely written about historical era, King Philip's War. The author succeeds in putting you inside Philip's head and makes the reader feel, by the end of the story, as if they know something of the insecurities and motivations that drove him to such desperate actions. You can easily follow the subtle changes in Philip's attitude as the war unfolds and as he learns who he can rely on and who he must be wary of. It vividly shows the economic and religious tug-of-war going on in the heads of the Native Americans of 1600's New England. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or who is interested in the era. However, be warned, this is not one of those novels written on the 8th grade reading level. A good portion of it is told through the thoughts, rather than the actions, of the characters. Sometimes it makes suddent turns that tend to take the reader out of the story. I had to stop several times and go back to reread some parts to see if I missed something. That said, it is well worth your time to read this novel.

The Young Titan
Francis Van Wyck mason

(Five Stars)

I stumbled on F. Van Wyck Mason by accident on I thought that anyone who wrote over 60 novels must have been a good writer, and I was right! All of his books are well written and keep the readers interest. But the "Young Titan" is in a class by itself. I don't know how it has been overlooked as a great piece of historical American Literature. The characters are vividly portrayed as are the scenes. Mason brings this era of colonial history to life again in this novel. Any reader who enjoys early American historical fiction should not miss this. A truly Great piece of writing!

Roger Sudden
Thomas H. Raddall
Chelsea Sea Publishing

(Five Stars)

This was a great historical novel. It's main character was well drawn and the action moved along at an even pace. A great story of a young Englishman's adventures in Nova Scotia and during the seige of Louisbourg.

Major Washington
Michael Kilian
Thomas Dunne Books

(Five Stars)

 I rate a novel on how enjoyable it was to read and, since I read historical fiction to escape from the world of today, I also rate it on whether or not it made me feel as if I were there? This one did. I would recommend it to any historical fiction buff. A good writer of historical fiction throws in just enough of the facts to make it believable to that time period, nothing more. Mr. Killian certainly did this. Read it. It's a very good story.
It is a tradegy that Mr. Killian's pen has been silenced, he was an accomplished writer.

Beverly Swerling
Simon & Schuster

(Three Stars)

Shadowbrook is a good read despite several historical gaffs. In particular, near the first of the book the author has one of the main characters slipping up on a French patrol, but the character doesn't bother to load his musket until the battle begins? Really? How long do you think a frontier fighter who wandered around with an empty gun would have lasted? Also, shaping a board laid across your knees with an adz is a quick way to lose that leg. Very likely she meant a hand adz, but even then it would still be a dicey piece of work. Despite these types of things, it still manages to pull you along. If you aren't really into the minutia of that era, you'll most likely never even notice these minor things but they tended to pull me out of the story when I came across them. As for good writing, it's there, just read the opening scene, a great example of descriptive writing!

Remember the Morning
Thomas Fleming
Forge Books

(Four Stars)

I have to be honest. This was a well written story with characters that you grow to know very well. It is enjoyable. My problem started when Malcom Stapelton stepped out of the role of a fictional character and became Robert Rogers of Rogers Rangers. To me good historical fiction gives the real historical figures their due along with some help from the fictional heros. I would still recommend it to anyone who is interested in pre-revolutionary fiction.

The Packhorseman
Charles Hudson

(Five Stars)

Let's be clear, if you are looking for an action-adventure full of warfare, this isn't it. On the other hand, if you're looking for a book that depicts the day-to-day life of a young working-class man in 1730's South Carolina and Georgia, this is right up your alley. The author draws you into the world of a Scottish immigrant who falls into the Cherokee deerskin trade of early Colonial America - and he does it well. There is limited action in the book, but it is the kind of action that would have actually taken place in the life of someone in William MacGregor's position. That said, the book pulled me along and kept me interested throughout its pages. I would highly recommend this work for anyone interested in historical fiction or for anyone who lives in the Northeast Georgia or Upstate South Carolina regions where the Cherokee towns of Tugaloo or Keowee were located. It will make you appreciate the oft-forgotten history of your area.

Revolutionary War Era

Kenneth Roberts
Doubleday and Company

(Five Stars)

Kenneth Roberts is an icon in historical fiction. Unfortunately, his works are slowly being forgotten. His best work, Northwest Passage, a novel of Rogers Rangers, was made into a major motion picture, as was one of his lesser known works, Captain Caution. Arundel most likely would have also been picked up by Hollywood except for Roberts distain for motion pictures. He turned down over $20,000 to act as an advisor to Northwest Passage (And this was during the Great Depression) and ridiculed its lack of loyalty to the original story line. The film makers even threw in a scene from Arundel.
'Nough said 'bout that. This is an excellent book. It is well written in the first person and instantly draws the reader into the plot. Although the first one-third of the book takes place during the French and Indian War in the late 1750's, the story centers mainly on Benedict Arnold's invasion of Canada during the American Revolution. It is highly realistic and historically accurate. In fact, Roberts later released a book containing his research for Arundel, March to Quebec;: Journals of the members of Arnold's expedition, which contains the letters, journals, and diary entries of the actual participants.
Great Book! Don't go another day without reading it.

Kentucky Stand
Jere Wheelwright

(Four Stars)

Kentucky Stand is a fast-paced and easy to real tale of the Kentucky frontier was seen through the eyes of teenager Jim Cheston, a rich young man who is sent west to spend a year with his uncle. During the stay, he meets and forms bonds with such notables as Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton. While this sounds like an overdone story, Jere Wheelwright pulls it off in the best of style. This is a great read for anyone and it can be picked up for only pennies on Amazon. com!

The Way Lies North
Jean Rae Baxter
Ronsdale Press

(Five Stars)

This is an excellent read for the Revolutionary War buff. The fact that it tells the story of the Loyalists is not what makes it stand out. What makes it stand out is that the heroes and heroines stay loyal to their beliefs throughout the book. In most novels of this genre' the Loyalist man or woman inevitably meets someone on the Patriot side, falls in love, sees the error of their way, and promptly becomes a good Patriot. That doesn't happen in this book. And it's about time. It probably didn't happen much in the real world either.
As far as I know, there are only a few books that fall into this category and all but two are written by Canadian writers. Anyone who likes this book should also read: The Hollow Tree, The King's Rangers, Escape: The Adventures of a Loyalist Family, A Lesser Form of Patriotism, or Honor Bound.
Although several of these are classified as Young Adult novels, readers won't be disappointed.

The King's Rangers
John Brick

(Five Stars)

This is an excellent book that tells the loyalist side of the American Revolution. It is a great book to read as a companion to "Drums Along the Mohawk" since it tells the same story from a different perspective.

Reap The Whirlwind: Augusta in the Revolution. A Novel 
Anne Riggs Osborne
Sandlapper Pub. Co.

(Four Stars)

I have to be up front and say that since historical fiction about early Georgia is so rare, I am heavily biased in favor of all books that deal with this subject. I can only think of three other books that are set in early Georgia: "Rascal's Heaven", "A Lesser Form of Patriotism",Rascals' HeavenA Lesser Form of Patriotism and "The Hornet's Nest". As a matter of fact, it this book very similar to "The Hornet's Nest" in style and content. That said, "Reap the Whirlwind" was a good book. Anyone who is interested in the American Revolution will find it interesting simply because it deals with the southern aspect of the conflict. This side is rarely encountered in historical fiction. Most works about the Revolution tend to be centered around the New England and Middle Colonies.

The Hornet's Nest: A Novel of the Revolutionary War.
Jimmy Carter
Simon & Schuster

(Four Stars)

I have to be up front and say that since historical fiction about early Georgia is so rare I am heavily biased in favor of all books that deal with this subject. I can only think of three other books that are set in early Georgia: Rascal's Heaven, A Lesser Form of Patriotism, and Reap the Whirlwind. As a matter of fact, it is very similar to "Reap the Whirlwind" in style and content. That said, "The Hornet's Nest" was a good book that introduces many readers to Loyalists such as Thomas Brown of the King's Carolina Rangers. Anyone who is interested in the American Revolution will find it interesting simply because it deals with the loyalist side of the Revolutionary War. This side is rarely encountered in historical fiction. Those who have only read Carter's former non-fiction books will probably not appreciate it as much as history buffs do. 4 stars, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

War of 1812

The Bully Boys
Eric Walters
Penguin Books Canada Ltd; First Edition edition

(Four Stars)

This book presents a rare look at the War of 1812 from the Canadian perspective. It is interesting and well written. The only minor flaw is that they often tend to represent the American forces as somewhat slow-witted and ineffective - as they sometimes seem to have been during the early stages of this war. Still, in order to make the accomplishments of Canadians seem more heroric and superhuman, they need to have a worthy enemy. I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

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