Kirkus Reviews QR Code


A Novel of the American Revolution

by Jeff Shaara

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-345-42756-4
Publisher: Ballantine

Not so much glorious as tedious, even with all the shooting going on.

Shaara (Gods and Generals, 1996, etc.) continues the saga of the American Revolution begun with Rise to Rebellion (2001). This one opens in New York during the summer of 1776. Washington’s ragged army prepares to defend itself against a large British force commanded by the rather useless General Howe. Highly trained, well armed, and reinforced by a sizable contingent of vicious Hessian mercenaries, the British drive the Americans out of forested Brooklyn Heights into Manhattan and thence through the small towns of New Jersey. As Washington scrabbles to keep his army fed, clothed and paid, the action occasionally jumps across the ocean to Paris, where Ben Franklin is trying to convince the French to support said glorious cause. The French would of course love to stick it to the British but are waiting for more concrete signs of the Americans’ ability to hold their own before whole-heartedly joining their side. Meanwhile, back in America, the war moves ahead in fits and starts as the two armies (tiny by 19th- and 20th-century standards) spend their time between skirmishes and the occasional pitched battle just trying to locate one another in the vastness of the New World. The end is, of course, inevitable, as American pluck beats British arrogance. Though the events depicted here should be extraordinarily rousing (the war was nearly lost on a number of nailbiting occasions), Shaara manages to render almost all of them mundane. He has an excellent grasp of the military and political significance of what’s going on, but his flat tone and missing gift for characterization make the story drag when it ought to soar.

What could have been a good, readable history fails through poor fictionalization.