Alternate History is one of my favorite genres. The idea is to extrapolate history based on something happening slightly differently. In this case, Robert Conroy crafts a story of what happened if the Colonials failed to win the War for Independence over the British.
In 1781, George Washington’s attempt to trap the British under Cornwallis at Yorktown ends catastrophically when the French fleet is destroyed in the Battle of the Capes. The revolution collapses, and the British begin a bloody reign of terror. A group of rebels flees westward and sets up a colony near what is now Chicago. They call it Liberty. The British, looking to finish what they started, send a very large force under Burgoyne to destroy them. Burgoyne is desperate for redemption and the Americans are equally desperate to survive.
Things did not go well for the “Americans” once the French were defeated. The Colonies have surrendered unconditionally and the leaders of the rebellion were imprisoned and/or executed by the British, including a very graphic beheading of Thomas Jefferson to begin the novel. The occupying British Army now sees the citizens of the land as little more than rabble.
Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in the Colonies was on board with independence from the British. There were plenty of people who were loyal to the British. Emboldened by the defeat of the “Americans”, these loyalists ally themselves even more with the British, who turn a blind eye to their misdeeds, even if their targets are people who did not participate in the War for Independence.
In Massachusetts, a young woman leaves Boston after her husband has been killed in the War and finds herself the target of one of these loyalists. To escape persecution by the loyalists, the entire family abandons their home and heads west to the new colony of Liberty. At first, the British Army is indifferent to this. However, once the French Revolution happens and Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette flee to England, King George wants to wipe out any spirit of rebellion that might still be stirring.
My exposure to alternate history has mostly been the author Harry Turtledove. I found Robert Conroy to be a much tighter read. There are fewer characters on the canvas and they have more depth. Instead of a story that’s all over the place, the action is concentrated in one place. The early pages of the book describe what is bringing the characters together in Liberty as well as their journey. Once there, it’s a story of espionage and strategy as the Americans regroup and prepare to stand up to the British Army once again.
There’s no easy way to get to Liberty, so Conroy describes the arduous task of the British Army, headquartered in New York City, making the trek through the wilderness to eradicate the Americans. There’s good attention to detail with the characters as well as the landscape.
In addition to the story of the characters Conroy created for the book, there are a few historical figures present as well. Ben Franklin is present and acts as you would expect him to from all the tales of his life. There’s not an intensive talk of military strategy, but there are enough discussions for the lay reader to follow. Franklin is pivotal, too, in helping to create a new weapon that will help the Americans stand a chance against the British Army.
I enjoyed Liberty: 1784: The Second War for Independence quite a bit. It wasn’t a hard read at all and the characters were interesting. I found the premise and execution to be plausible and the characters to behave believably. There may be moments that are pretty graphic of the horrors inflicted upon the Americans that may be too graphic for some, but it didn’t bother me.
Categories: Book Reviews