A historical novel intertwines the adventures of an array of characters, recounting important events of the War of 1812 through multiple perspectives.
The story begins through the eyes of Lemuel Wyckliffe, a 16-year-old boy who joins a Kentucky militia with his father to avenge the deaths of his mother and sister, murdered at the hands of Native Americans. Almost immediately, Lemuel’s camp is ambushed and the reader is thrown into an action-packed scene of carnage, with no gory details spared. The following chapters cut to different perspectives, including that of Canadian Lt. George Sherbourne, on his way to join the British army in England; Muscogee teenager Hadjo, inspired to fight alongside his people to protect their land; 17-year-old Silas Shackleton, who is offered the chance to join the British navy after being forced from an American vessel; and 20-year-old Rachel Thurston, newly arrived in Washington City alongside her father to discuss politics with President James Madison. The War of 1812 itself serves as both the setting and the plot structure, the common thread that ties the diverse cast of characters together. As the epic story unfolds, each character’s will is tested in the cruel face of adversity and violence. Klaassen (Scenes and Sequels: How to Write Page-Turning Fiction, 2016, etc.) delivers a riveting, well-informed novel that strives to breathe life into dusty history books and highlight the stories of the human beings behind the text. The author’s attention to detail and truthful representation of life during the War of 1812 makes the story engaging and instructive: “The air reeked with the stench of festering wounds and the various potions administered by the doctors…Lemuel could see more than a dozen men packed into the room…some sat with their back against the walls, but most of the wounded lay on furs spread across the floor in irregular rows.” The reader is transported into a different era with Klaassen’s use of tangible descriptors. But the extensive cast of characters becomes confusing at times, and the abundance of historical references may grow tiresome for readers unaccustomed to educational accounts.
A captivating tale that should appeal to history buffs, period drama fans, and readers who want to learn about the War of 1812 through the human experience rather than a textbook.