Fiction is fun, but don't mess with the history

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

'Sparrowhawk, Book Four: Empire', by Edward Cline

Sparrowhawk, Book Four: Empire, published in 2004 by Edward Cline, is the fourth novel in the Sparrowhawk series. It's been almost a year since I reviewed book two in the series. Since then, I also read Book Three: Caxton, so here's a brief outline of the historical settings of both. (see the earlier reviews for my general comments about Cline's style and fictional characters). In Caxton, Jack and Hugh both end up in Virginia, owning neighboring farms near the fictional small town of Caxton. There they spend the years of the French and Indian War.

In Empire, Jack and Hugh confront the newly enlarged British Empire and the first few of Parliament's clumsy attempts to increase tax revenues from its North American colonies - from the 1764 Sugar Act to the 1765 Stamp Act. The novel's climax is the debate and voting in the Virginia House of Burgesses over how Virginia should respond to the Stamp Act. Hugh has become a Burgess and is involved in the debates (on the radical pro-resistance side, of course). While in Williamsburg, Hugh gets acquainted with several historical characters, including the firebrand Patrick Henry and a very young Thomas Jefferson.

While the Sparrowhawk novels are not bad, I admit that I read Empire mostly because I couldn't find anything better in my local library. Because of a tight budget, they don't seem to be putting much money into acquisitions these days. The two remaining Sparrowhawk books are pretty cheap as Kindle books, but I'm bothered by the fact that ebooks can't be re-sold as used or donated to a library. Publishers may have finally found a way to put used-book stores and libraries out of business. All readers should oppose this trend.

Even more disturbing to me personally is that I'm having trouble finding good new historical novelists, and the output from my favorites has slowed dramatically. Maybe they're all getting old along with me, but it doesn't seem like younger writers are coming along to receive the torch. Seriously, I saw a novel the other day with the title: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Are there any adults left in the room?

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