A little while ago I began reading an epic series of novels by John Jakes about the Kent family, set against the birth of the USA. The whole series is eight books of around 600 pages each, so quite a daunting task and one I’d been putting off for quite a while! The first book, The Bastard, saw Philip Kent from his origins in France to his participation in the Boston Tea Party and the start of the American revolution. This second book, The Rebels, continues covering the revolutionary war and the struggles Philip goes through while fighting for his new nation.
Although Philip dreams of opening his own printing business to leave a legacy for his son, he becomes disillusioned by the horrors of the war and experiences a personal tragedy that leaves hims questioning what he is fighting for.
The main characters from the first book all appear here and, as with book one, mix seamlessly with the real life characters of the American revolution and the first continental congress. Philip is now a mature man and father, with different concerns than those he had in book one. It’s nice though to meet some new characters; book one was almost exclusively from Philip’s point of view, but in The Rebels we meet Virginian playboy Judson Fletcher and experience his short time with the continental congress and, briefly, touch on the issue of slavery – something which I’m sure will be covered again in detail when this saga reaches the American civil war period. We also meet several characters in Judson’s life, including Peggy McLean who will, I think, be playing a bigger part as the books continue.
I was worried about reading these books before I started, but they really are gripping. There is a lot of detail about the war and some quite technical details, but somehow they are never boring. The writing conveys a lot of the suffering the revolutionary fighters went through, through poor organisation and lack of equipment and at points it’s quite unbelievable that they will ever win the war!
Although I’m reading something else at the minute, I’m really looking forward to continuing this series, particularly as the next book moves on from Philip to the ‘Next Generation’! Two down, six to go!