Kestrel’s debut historical novel follows young Finn from his Scandinavian homeland to the ranks of the Rangers in the new America.
When brash young reporter Henry Raymond travels upstate from New York City to a remote Catskills resort to seek out the elusive and legendary Mr. Morton, Morton recounts for him in epic detail the story of Finn, a young Scandinavian. Born into a small, rustic village in the Finnish countryside, Finn longs for the life of a warrior and hunter, but he’s held back from his ambitions by his mother who does not want him to inherit the deadly fate of his warrior-father, which she has painstakingly withheld from Finn. Fate proves to have an ironic twist, however, as Finn’s village is sacked by invading Russians and Hessian mercenaries. Finn’s instincts enable him to survive the onslaught while most of his fellow villagers are killed, including his mother and his young love. While being chased out of Finland by Johan Kopf and his men, Finn takes to a life at sea until he lands in Britain. Once again proving his bravery on the battlefield, Finn loses hope of becoming an officer in the British army when he is pressed into the navy on a slave ship bound for America. Finn’s encounters in America include meeting George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, but when he becomes an Army Ranger at Fort Edward in upstate New York, the pace falters. The novel, set in the late 18th century, is stylistically more like medieval romances of King Arthur’s court. Events and time move quickly; little time is spent on setting or emotional state (though there is plenty of explicitly detailed violence), and characters often appear suddenly, without context or introduction. While this keeps the adventure and action moving, the convenient manifestations of Finn’s enemies appear contrived. The frame around the story eventually reveals an interesting narrative twist. One cannot help but admire Finn’s resilience, despite his melancholic musings.
An entertaining adventure novel flooded with manic action.