Told in a straightforward fashion and rigorously stripped of the sensational, Robertson’s narration recreates the conditions during the Revolutionary War with illuminating authenticity, right down to slightly formal dialogue, even as the men razz each other, plus updates on the war itself, and helpful sketches of key locations. The characters are well drawn with the more affable and talented Andre complementing the impulsive and temperamental Despard. The presence of Elizabeth Brant, who is half indigenous, and the family of Captain Hesketh, offers relief from an otherwise all-male cast. The stark contrast between the life of the officers and that of the lower ranks is disturbing. While the former enjoy a near-free life with mild parole restrictions, the latter are confined to their barracks, often in inhuman conditions.
Robertson’s interest is in life as it was lived, though the character of Kincaid, portrayed as unprincipled and cruel, adds welcome tension and conflict. In plot terms, for stretches of the novel nothing much happens: the officers eat, drink, and vent. However, the effect is immersive, steeping readers in the past and these lives, and the impressive research, woven well into the story, ensures a realistic portrait of both the British and the Americans of those times, offering real rewards for readers fascinated by the past.
Takeaway: Immersive, realistic novel about British prisoners of war during the American Revolution.
Comparable Titles: Walter D. Edmonds’s Drums Along the Mohawk, Bernard Cornwell’s Redcoat.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-