— April 2nd, 2012 —

Book Review: “Rise to Rebellion,” by Jeff Shaara

“In 1770, the fuse of revolution is lit by a fateful command—“Fire!”—as England’s peacekeeping mission ignites into the Boston Massacre. The senseless killing of civilians leads to a tumultuous trial in which lawyer John Adams must defend the very enemy who has assaulted and abused the laws he holds sacred.
The taut courtroom drama soon broadens into a stunning epic of war as King George III leads a reckless and corrupt government in London toward the escalating abuse of his colonies. Outraged by the increasing loss of their liberties, an extraordinary gathering of America’s most inspiring characters confronts the British presence with the ideals that will change history….
More than a powerful portrait of the people and purpose of the Revolution, Rise to Rebellion is a vivid account of history’s most pivotal events. The Boston Tea Party, the battles of Concord and Bunker Hill—all are re-created with the kind of breathtaking detail only a master like Jeff Shaara can muster. His most impressive achievement, Rise to Rebellion reveals with new immediacy how philosophers became fighters, ideas their ammunition, and how a scattered group of colonies became the United States of America.” — from the inside flaps

Jeff Shaara writes historical fiction, and he’s good at it, too. Not only that, but his books are actually appropriate to read—and what’s more, he has an honest appreciation of history, and dislikes it when the revisionists try to throw mud on the truly great men of the past. For those reasons, he is, in my opinion, one of the best historical fiction writers alive today.
His main characters are real people: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Gage. As such, he realizes he has an enormous duty to be very careful with the words he puts in their mouths and the way he portrays them, and he accordingly spends a tremendous amount of time researching each character. I’m thankful for that. Mr. Shaara is a breath of fresh air in a world where the historical must be made the sensational, the salacious, the sacrilegious. Mr. Shaara has respect for the great characters in our history; and for that, I respect him.
As it’s the first book of two on the War for Independence, I prefer to think of Rise to Rebellion as an Act 1 rather than as a stand-alone book; for while very little major, explosive action happens here, the stage is set, the characters are introduced, and the conflict emerges. A good deal of the book is taken up in showing the rumblings of war, culminating in the historic events on July 2, 1776.
While we certainly see action in battle, discussion plays a key role in the book—just as discussion was key in the development of the conflict in real life. Nevertheless, Mr. Shaara has a peculiar ability, I think, to make such conversation interesting. While the great discussions of the Continental Congress develop the conflict, the small talk between great men develop their characters. I believe he does an excellent job of humanizing the giants of history.
Mr. Shaara writes for adults; and because of this, his books are on a bit more of a mature level, written for more mature readers, than G.A. Henty’s or Douglas Bond’s are. Regardless, even though he doesn’t write for young people, per se, this is a great book that I can comfortably recommend to that audience.
INDECENCY: Almost none. There are a couple of scenes in which Franklin is unclothed in his room with the window open, as this is a peculiar aspect of his philosophy of health; fortunately, his nudity is not the emphasis of either scene—it just happens to be the case, and is handled tactfully. (Again, I believe it’s the author’s attempts to be honest with the men of history—warts and all—that is responsible for it being in the book.)
LANGUAGE: In my opinion, it’s comparatively mild. Thankfully, Mr. Shaara uses discretion with the language, and it often depends on how profane any given character was in real life. That said, the Lord’s name is taken in vain from time to time; probably more common, however, are d*mn, hell, and, to a lesser degree, bl**dy. On a rare occasion some other word will show up; but overall, for having been written in modern times, the book is pretty good about language. NOTE: Washington takes the Lord’s name in vain twice (maybe three times) and uses the d-word. I highly doubt he would have done so in real life.
AGE RANGE: It always depends on the parent’s evaluation of the child’s maturity. I would say Mr. Shaara is a step above G. A. Henty; and with that in mind, I’d probably let my thirteen- or fourteen-year-old read it.

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