The Prize: Tales from a Revolution: Vermont, by Lars D. H. Hedbor, 2009, Book Review

On the border between New York and Vermont lies Lake Champlain, like a 125-mile-long wedge cleaving the two states apart. Its northern end has access to the all-important St. Lawrence River; its southern end nearly reaches the Hudson River. During the centuries in which water travel was far superior to overland, this waterway was invaluable. In years of conflict, a contest for control was inevitable.

Lars Hedbor has crafted a superb novel set on the Vermont shore of Lake Champlain at the outset of the American Revolution. As the first shots are fired, young Caleb Clark walks the tightrope between boyhood and manhood, but as the war sweeps northward, engulfing the waterway on which he’s spent his life, conflict and danger hasten his maturity. His wonderfully engaging journey takes readers through moments of grief and seasons of joy, all sparkling with lively humor. Through Caleb’s eyes, we’re treated to a glimpse of Colonial life and a local view of the battles of the Canadian campaign as well as the naval encounter at Champlain’s Valcour Island.

I’ve always been a history buff (as my first three novels will attest), so I particularly enjoyed The Prize. It’s meaty, stuffed with historical details that provide a real sense of what went on in the war. Yet this is no text book–Mr. Hedbor has an excellent eye for story. It’s starts just a bit slow, with lots of farm chores and hearsay about far away battles, but the characters grow on you quickly, and the plot intensifies along with the tension. I especially loved the conflict that builds between Caleb and the young lady he’s always, ahem, bumping into. Mr. Hedbor also has a particular gift for the Colonial vernacular, and his characters’ quick wit kept me smiling.

This is definitely YA. I wouldn’t rule out advanced middle graders, but the story contains some unapologetic, true-to-life moments of war. The language is clean, but includes difficult vocabulary. This isn’t a fluffy read. But adult and YA historical fiction lovers, you’re going to eat this one up. I did!

Where to find it:

Drop in on Lars’ website:  http://larsdhhedbor.blogspot.com/

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