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Revolution: Sparrowhawk – Book Five    by Edward Cline order for
by Edward Cline
Order:  USA  Can
MacAdam/Cage, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

When we enter Book Five: Revolution and join Jack Frake and Hugh Kenrick in Edward Cline's latest volume of the Sparrowhawk series, colonial dissent and dangerous tensions are slowly but unremittingly spreading in the summer of 1765 throughout Virginia and the other colonies.

Readers familiar with Frake and Kenrick will remember them from earlier volumes: In the first, Briton Jake Frake - clever, impulsive, and rebellious - finds himself sent as an indentured servant to the colonies after getting in trouble at home with British authorities; in the second installment, the preciously brilliant English nobleman Hugh Kenrick is sent by his father to Philadelphia to keep him out of trouble with conservative political leaders in London; in the third volume, Kenrick moves to Caxton - just half a day’s ride from Williamsburg, Virginia - where he becomes master of his own tobacco plantation, where he meets and befriends Jack Frake, and where he pursues ill-fated romantic interests; and in the fourth book of Cline's erudite series, Kenrick - of course, with Frake, but also with Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and others - tries to stop England from imposing the Stamp Act.

Frake and Kenrick (and others) - in opposition to the Stamp Act, the latest attempt by King George III and the Parliament to raise badly needed revenue (with England still financially desperate after the Seven Years' War) - are members of the newly named Sons of Liberty (formerly the Attic Society), and they have adopted the motto, 'Live Free, or Die.' The Sons of Liberty represent an increasingly unified attitude of independence among colonists, but British Parliament is unwilling to back down from what it sees as its fundamental prerogative to exert absolute control over the subordinate colonies. With communications moving slowly through letters and dispatches sent back and forth on British ships - including the Sparrowhawk, commanded by Kenrick's friend Captain John Ramshaw - and with tensions building in the colonies and in London, Frake and Kenrick rely upon Kenrick's friend Dogmael Jones to keep them informed about the high-staked debates and the highly charged atmosphere of political gamesmanship and duplicity in Parliament. Many of the key players are there, especially Grenville and Pitt. And even Benjamin Franklin is maneuvering behind the scenes in London. But when the much despised stamps and stamped paper finally arrive via ship in Williamsburg, the Sons of Liberty (with, of course, Frake and Kenrick in attendance) plan an audacious blockade to intercept and turn-away the shipment. Then, however, they know that the inevitable has been set in motion: 'The world is about to be set afire!'

Clearly, this is not the kind of simple, factual history you encountered in your textbooks. Sparrowhawk novels are filled to overflowing with real (and imagined) characters and complex incidents. Cline carefully (and sometimes exhaustively) explores the politics and philosophies which were at the heart of the conflict between the rebellious American colonials and the British Parliament and George III. You may never have thought about studying 18th century political philosophy, but it is here in abundance - explained and argued by different characters - in Cline's richly detailed novels. However, caveat emptor, if you want your historical fiction light and breezy - heavy on characterizations and creativity imagined plots but only lightly garnished with verifiable historical details - stick with John Jakes or Bernard Cornwell; on the other hand, if you want imaginative but carefully detailed explorations of the complicated situations and abstract concepts that led up to the American Revolution, Edward Cline is writing just for you.

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