It is much harder to write biography well and vividly in the short form and to this collection of 40 sketches of Revolutionary figures, Mr. Sobol brings the results of much research and an effortless essay style. These are not the standard Revolutionary heroes, although some like Lafayette, Ethan Allen and Washington get space. Also included for good reference value are the generals, soldiers of the enemy and some American loyalists. For instance, there is the story of Johann Seume, the reluctant Hessian mercenary who was shanghaied into the forces of ""that seller of souls, the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassil,"" who made his principality's expenses by supplying cannon fodder, and this investigates one of the stranger aspects of 18th century warfare. There is a brisk discussion of George III and one line from it will serve to show the author's refreshing style -- ""His dynasty, the House of Hanover, was barely royal and hardly ever noble."" What Mr. Sobol offers here in pen portraits are lively, thought provoking glimpses of complicated personalities brought together in war for a variety of complicated motives. Well done.