By: James Conroyd Martin
Publisher: Hussar Quill Press
Publication Date: December 2012
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: February 14, 2014
For any reader who craves that sweeping family saga, or historical fans who wish to be wrapped up in a stunning world that was built on intrigue and elegance, this is the book that’s a perfect ‘can’t put down’ read.
The foundation of this plot is the November Uprising (or, Rising), which was the armed rebellion of the Polish-Russian War that ran from 1830 to 1831. Beginning when young Polish officers from the local ‘Army of the Congress’ (Poland’s military academy) revolted, the uprising was truly a fight for freedom, Poland’s rights, and attaining the ability to stand on their own two feet without mighty Imperial Russia keeping them in check. Considering the size and brutality of the enemy they fought, it was no surprise that the rebellion did not succeed, but this particular author has done a thrilling job of taking the hand of the reader and walking them through an incredible time.
Forbidden to remember a moment in the past (offered in the gripping Prologue), the story begins with a birthday party. Michal is the recipient of this honor, and it is he and his brother, who serve as the backbone of this incredible tale.
Michal is a veteran who may seem to some as paranoid and overly cautious when it comes to how the Polish people are ‘talking’ about conspiracies, as well as uniting in the face of a realm that will not be defeated easily. Jozef, his much younger brother, is absolutely passionate about being a cadet and becoming part of a plan that will score a major win for Poland and her people.
Involved in a plot to abduct the Grand Duke of Russia, the historical and military ramifications affect this family with heart-wrenching reality. And when it comes to the true loves and strong matriarchs of their family, the women work hard to bring the family through the fire so they can come out unharmed.
Everything in this tale is astounding. The writer owns a gift; everything from an extravagant Manor House to little towns where skirmishes and bloody battles are fought at dawn, not one scene is lacking in beauty, darkness, and imagination.
The cadets are much like any youngsters in the military who have the ultimate faith that they, because they are on the right side, will have no problem taking down the beast that, in this novel, is represented by Russia. Readers will want to cheer and stand behind them, yet also take Michal’s way and not throw caution to the wind.
Quill says: Compelling. This author has made sure to explore every emotion of the time period to present a truly epic novel.