Oliver Cutter, first met as A Messenger for Parliament (1976), is a year older and, on confidential duty-as Cromwell's Boy, very much more of a personage, though a mere 13. Alone now, he acquires a sword and slays an enemy soldier almost inadvertently; discovers that being ""for Parliament"" doesn't make men of one mind otherwise; proudly learns to write and, to his disappointment, is discouraged from going on to learn Latin: ""It is but ballast,"" says sage Major Whalley, ""not necessary to a man loaded with experience."" Also part of Oliver's early coming-of-age are patently contrived forays into the recent past (and previous book). Boastful, insecure Ezra's gang mockingly gangs up on him; Master Walden's pro-Parliament print shop is wrecked by Roundheads because of his simple-minded daughter's Catholicism; Jack, the best-of-all-friends-and-freedom-fighters, proves on his return to be an unfeeling zealot. So where's the story? Well, Oliver has a way of calling to mind, every so often, innkeeper Powers' daughter Faith in Oxford, who once declared her love for him; and, sent there as a spy, he finds her father imprisoned and Faith in danger of being captured and tortured to make him speak. So, without much difficulty, Oliver effects her escape from the town--and gets away himself on an Irish Lord's great stallion, which will presumably be part of the permanent company. It's hard to care much one way or the other: a succession of set pieces, with all present spouting epigrams, doesn't make for personal involvement.