I’m thrilled to announce the January release of the latest edition in Lars Hedbor’s Tales of a Revolution series. I’ve come to be pretty good friends with Lars, but it’s a friendship that began through a shared love of American history and mutual respect for each other’s work. In 2013, dissatisfied with a small press, Lars decided to take publishing into his own hands. I’m so glad he did! He’s proving himself quite prolific. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every single one of his books.
The Smoke is a thought provoking look at the clash of cultures that took place during one of the most world-changing events in history–the Revolutionary War. In a microcosm of the broader conflict, Hedbor focuses on the challenges facing the Iroquois Confederacy (an alliance of five Indian nations), and more specifically, the Tuscarora tribe within the alliance. Historically, this powerful force sided as a whole with the British, but when the British failed to keep old promises and the American army became a greater threat, some tribes within the Confederacy allied themselves with the Americans in an act of self-preservation, effectively splintering the long-held cohesion.
The Smoke very effectively illustrates the pressures facing the Turscarora people: the continuing encroachment of American settlers and loss of Indian land, the long arms of an American/European conflict that was not their own, the tough decision to choose against the larger Iroquois council, and the struggle to hold on to a culture doomed to extinction by a stronger invader. But Hedbor does more than just paint a picture, he makes the “savages” human. “They are but people, whose ways are strange to us, without a doubt, but they laugh, love and lose just as we do.”
Apart from an immaculate application of history, Hedbor demonstrates his ability to write artistic prose. I love his consistent use of animal word pictures to help readers get into the heads of the tribal people, my favorite being: “His speech sounds like a bear smacking a fish on a rock.” That quote also gives a taste of the humor speckling the tale. And as always, his particular gift for historical vernacular shines through.
I have two reasons for not awarding this one 4.5 stars instead of a solid five as I did for books one and two, and both reasons are very minor. First is an abundance of commas that I found a little disruptive to the flow of thought. And second, the main American character Joseph undergoes an all-encompassing change, an embracing of the tribe that is very appropriate to the story but happens too strongly, too quickly, in just one winter. I had a hard time believing that he could so soon forsake his own culture and even dream in the Indian speech.
Overall, I give The Smoke my highest recommendation. It’s a fascinating glimpse into one tiny corner of the world’s first global conflict and one of the best books I’ve picked up this year. If you enjoy American historical fiction as I do, this one is a must-read. All all Lars’ books are under five bucks!
(The Tales of a Revolution series is not necessarily kidlit, but they are totally appropriate for a 14+ audience, the high rating due mostly to vocabulary and some war-related context.)