Até turned to him. To his silence. “Do you fear what we are to do here?”
“I fear what we may find. Friends who are now foes. All wars are civil wars in some way, Até. This one more than most. Eleven years we have been away. A world changes in eleven years.”
The Mohawk thumped his chest with a closed fist. “It does not change here.”
Jack studied the shoreline. “I think it changes there most of all.”
(from Jack Absolute)
Jack Absolute is the first book in a series set during the American Revolution that focuses on a British spy with conflicted loyalties. Jack Absolute is a character in The Rivals, a play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and C.C. Humphreys was inspired to bring him to life after portraying him in a 1987 revival of the play, which was first performed in 1775. (I love that the book features a photograph of Humphreys in costume!)
Jack Absolute arrives in London in 1777 after seven years abroad seeking to reclaim his family’s fortune to find that his friend, Sheridan, who believed Jack to be dead, has made him a laughingstock in a play that depicts a failed love affair from his past. It doesn’t take long for Jack to get himself in trouble while at the theater. After turning down General Burgoyne’s request to rejoin the British Army and sail with him across the sea to do some intelligence work and help put an end to the war, Jack’s dalliance with an actress leads to a duel and forces him to flee from the authorities — straight into Burgoyne’s carriage, leaving him no choice but to accept his old friend’s offer. All of this happens in the first three chapters, and the excitement and adventure never let up.
The novel follows Jack as he attempts to track down a spy in the Redcoats’ midst, works with his Mohawk brother, Até, to drum up support for the British among the divided Iroquois tribes, romances the daughter of an American Loyalist, and seeks revenge on the sinister Count von Schlaben. In rich detail, Humphreys paints a portrait of the American wilderness, the bloody battles at Saratoga, and the excesses of British-occupied Philadelphia.
Jack Absolute is an expertly paced novel that has so much to offer in terms of action, setting, and historical detail. Jack’s duties keep him on the go, and he always manages to end up in impossible situations, which ensures the plot never slows down. Humphreys does a brilliant job making the characters, both historical and fictional, come to life. Jack Absolute is one of the most interesting and complex characters I’ve come across. He is both brave and foolish, not to mention daring, charming, funny, honorable, and even haunted. When it comes to the war, he is torn but loyal. It’s easy to see why he’s a hit with the ladies, and he even surprised me at times, which is what I liked best of all.
Jack Absolute has a little something for everyone — war, sex, romance, intrigue, and even swordfighting. It gives readers a glimpse of the various sides of the war, Redcoat, Rebel, and Native American, showing how confusing it was for men to fight against men they fought alongside to defeat the French not too long before and how the war put the Iroquois tribes at odds with one another. It’s also a perfect series book, satisfying readers at the end while paving the way for a sequel. I can’t wait to follow Jack on his next adventure!
Disclosure: I received Jack Absolute from Sourcebooks for review.
© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.