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       The roles played by four revolutionary leaders, from the initial protests that mothered the Cause of Liberty, through to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and onto a united effort to overthrow one of the world’s greatest military powers.

The turbulent sweep of the five years of dissent that led up to the crucial first year of conflict is executed with style, sensitivity, and accuracy. These Founding Fathers are no longer the cardboard figures of historians, but instead the complicated human beings they were. They are men making difficult decisions in the midst of a succession of crises.

       The strength of Shaara’s writing lies in his ability to portray different perspectives among men who are supposedly bound together by a common sense of purpose. He reminds us that it was never a forgone conclusion that the Thirteen Colonies would sever ties with Great Britain or develop a new form of government. Many colonials saw revolution as treason and as the path to civil war and military dictatorship. Lesser known occurrences that never made it into grade school textbooks give depth to the novel’s events and to the people who brought them about.

       Rise to Rebellion is the story of a growing awareness of the potential of fundamental legal reform, as told from the vantage points of several prominent contemporaries of the era. Four powerful players are used to create a behind-the-scenes feel of tactics and maneuvers: John Adams, a lawyer in turbulent Boston, who feels duty-bound to defend the British soldiers accused of murder in the Boston Massacre; Benjamin Franklin, the agent for his home colony Pennsylvania, and a famous scientist whose wit dazzled the courts of France and the coffee shops of England; General Thomas Gage, the ranking British officer in the North American colonies, who cannot foresee the outcome of his handling of events in Boston; and George Washington, the colonial planter whose service as an officer in the French and Indian War could not possibly have taught him all he would need to know, but who was still willing to accept the military leadership of an untrained and underfunded army.

       Rise to Rebellion shows how a real revolution is mounted, and Shaara refuses to ignore Boston’s colonial ruling class, giving the reader a fascinating glimpse into its stiff and pompous complexity. The depth with which the pressures of the rebellion cuts into the lives of prominent citizens is revealed along with the inevitable splitting of families and severing of friendships. But Shaara’s writing is not just gossip and titillation; it bears the restraint owed to the events that had such a great impact on history. The coarseness inevitable in any full portrayal of reality is held back without losing the three-dimensionality of personalities.

       Without becoming maudlin or melodramatic, Shaara builds drama around events known to every student, but he is at his best when he relates the behind-the-scenes intrigues generally known only to historians. He masterfully dramatizes the Boston Massacre, the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the seizure of Fort Ticonderoga, the Battle of Bunker Hill, the siege of Boston, the Continental Congresses, and the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Dialogue and thought must be read as fiction, but it is apparent that a great deal of research has gone into Shaara’s writing. The book skirts the line between fiction and nonfiction, and for some there might be too much information. However, for many this book offers the best of both genres: the ease and grace of a novel with the weight of knowledge of a well-crafted historical text.

First of a two-part series.

Moderate violence. No disturbing content. P.C.

Available in audiobook format.

Jeff Shaara's webpage. (click here)