The talky Manning clan of South Carolina goes into the American Revolution for Volume II of their saga--but things are even more enervating than they were in The Fires of July (p. 144). Drew Manning, who is, with Grandmother Elizabeth, the ""wise"" branch of the family, is still ""Upcountry"" in politics--which goes against the urbane grain of the Charles Town Mannings; his wife Laurel has died after giving birth to a daughter and son Nathaniel. But is Nathaniel really Drew's son, or the offspring of a raping bandit? The matter pops up from time to time, but it's only mean Joanna, sister to Drew's new wife Gywnne, who makes much of it. Meanwhile, the Mannings are split by their inclinations and affiliations as the British force a showdown over colonial trade policies. Among the Manning Tories: cousins Rob and Leo (who'll change his mind); Joanna and husband Bert; Drew's brother Arthur; their father, Joseph; and Uncle John. On Drew's side: brash young cousin George and Grandmother Elizabeth. Revolutionary action--the dumping of a ship's cargo; stealing arms from the State House; riding around Upcountry with an Oath of Loyalty--weighs in occasionally. There are spots of turmoil, including a slave uprising on the Manning plantation--all started by an educated African named Seth, in whom Drew sees ""none of the usual meekness or the laziness he often associated with the bondsmen."" (Seth stirs up the ""darkies"" and nips out; bloodshed ensues on both sides.) And later Elizabeth is the heroine, springing Drew from a British prison after a Patriot attack on brother Arthur's home. But endless, droning talk predominates, making this an unusually dull saga--not to mention an offensive one when it comes to the backward portrayal of plantation blacks.