WASHINGTON AND CAESAR by Christian Cameron

WASHINGTON AND CAESAR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An epic populated by the likes of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, various colonial bad and good guys, sympathetic Brits, and an African slave who leads his followers to freedom.

First solo effort by Cameron (the pseudonymous Gordon Kent, a father/son writing team: authors of the Alan Craik naval intelligence series), who gives his eponymous Caesar the birth name Cese Mwakale, a noble-born Ashanti. His Roman namesake, a helpful mentor tells him, was himself briefly a slave but later ransomed; the future emperor then spends a few pleasant months chasing down and crucifying those who have offended him. Though he likes the justice in that, Cese is less Caesar than Spartacus. After having aroused the ire of former master George Washington—who figures as a moody, often-unpleasant fellow—he’s banished to the Great Dismal Swamp. There, he organizes a slave revolt, becomes a scout for the British, who have promised him and his fellow “Loyal Ethiopians” freedom in exchange for military service, and begins to rise through the ranks. (Think Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe.) Naturally, he encounters Washington again, to great dramatic effect; as Caesar relates to a British officer, “We exchanged shots at the Brandywine. Something like a duel, I think. I’ve thought that it settled something between us.” Caesar also has a few cliffhanging run-ins with a murderous slavecatcher named Bludner—after Hannibal Lecter, one of the most sneeringly villainous figures in recent fiction. Cameron has done his homework well, peppering his pages with real-life incidents rendered with precise attention to detail; where he invents, he does so plausibly. His handling of regional dialects and the language of the time—so often a problem in historical fiction—is particularly skillful. More praiseworthy still is Cameron’s careful plotting, which serves up just the right amount of drama, just the right amount of useful-to-know information. Only in the last couple of pages does Cameron falter, as if reluctant to leave off with this delicious tale.

A treat for Revolutionary War buffs, especially those interested in the role of Africans and African-Americans on both sides of that fight.

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 2004
ISBN: 0-385-33776-0
Page count: 592pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2003