Book Review: The Wind (Tales From a Revolution: West-Florida)

Tales From a Revolution: West-Florida
The Smoke
by Lars D.H. Hedbor

Click here for your free copy of The Declaration
(See below for upcoming author appearances)

The American Revolution being part of a larger world war is an idea that many people don’t touch upon, or disagree as to the accuracy of such an association. However, it remains true that many British saw our rebellion as part of French technique to run them down, and Spanish losses during the Seven Years’ War influenced their involvement against the British when the thirteen colonies declared their independence. Surely not forgetting the seizure of Havana, the Spaniards set themselves up to avoid a repeat, later aiming to re-take Florida, which had been divided by the British into east and west.

Thus it is in West Florida that Lars D.H. Hedbor sets The Wind, which opens with a dramatic hurricane scene that nevertheless has a feel of calm, as Gabriel falls from a noisy and chaotic sinking ship, into a quiet bliss, taking in the welcome stillness and warm water.

The whistling of the wind in the rigging, the desperate shouts of men struggling to make themselves heard over the storm, the crash of water against the sides of the ship, all were silenced. Gone, too, were the cracks and thuds of falling spars, the hoarse cries of surprise wrenched from the throats of men as they were swept from the decks, and the deep, muffled boom of the thunder.

 The passage has a peaceful effect on readers as well, and it is not difficult to imagine how someone might be lulled into the quiet arms of death by drowning. This introduces The Wind as perhaps the most intense and powerful installment in the Tales From a Revolution series I’ve read thus far, and that’s saying something, given Hedbor’s previously demonstrated and considerable skill in transporting readers to the moment, bringing events to vivid life and enabling an audience to see the era through the eyes of his characters, who are drawn with a deep understanding of the time and locales in which they live. Here the author goes one step further in portraying a Spaniard, as opposed to an American colonist, freshening up an already-lively series with a whole new, larger perspective.

The storm that washes Gabriel onto the shores where he meets Carlotta, preceded by Governor Galvez’s plan through covert operations to aid the American rebels, also brings a number of changes into the lives of the people in its midst. The bold plot is “swept aside now by the unpredictable power of the storm, a factor that [Gabriel] suspected was not doing as much harm to the plans of their enemies upriver.” As Gabriel recuperates in Carlotta’s ramshackle dwelling, she embarks on a search for her husband, Paulo.

As Hedbor moves his story along, his competency as a writer is easily apparent. Enabled by third-person narration, the author skillfully weaves in and out of Gabriel’s point of view and his observations of Carlotta’s emotional state. Shortly after awakening the subsequent morning, “[h]is expression formed the question that she answered with a slow, sad shake of her head.” Following a few words, she “punctuates her conclusion with a deep sigh” and after a quiet conversation, her shoulders shake “with the unrelenting sobs of the bereaved.” The intervening dialogue strikes a balance in their exchange, and the tale has established itself as readers eagerly anticipate learning the fate of Paulo as well as what Gabriel plans for his future.

As the narrative continues and Gabriel’s fate opens before him, Hedbor adds more plotlines, to include murder, siege, betrayal, shipboard battle—and a foray into magical realism. The protagonist feels obligations toward the villagers, but yearns for his sailing life as he strains to cope with the growing conflicts, personal and political.

“It is a matter of our honor and our duties as subjects of King Carlos of Bourbon, in Madrid … [h]e says to fight in his name, and we can do no other.”

 Still she scowled at Gabriel, answering, “The King is not living in a hut far from his real home, counting his blessings for every potato that some far-off benefactor deigns to send him …. You ask whether our progress here satisfies me, without ever asking me once whether the goal you work toward is anything that I want. Perhaps I was not interested in re-building these shacks, and waiting for the next storm to blow them into splinters.”

 That Hedbor so succinctly and brilliantly speaks from such a wide variety of perspectives, whether within one novel and the opposing ideals of two or more characters, or when examining his other works in which he presents stories from such a diverse sampling of colonists who lived over 200 years before—this is nothing short of awe inspiring. His dialogue and its attendant character gesticulations and facial movements, depicted or observed, the narrative that flows so smoothly, contains such a trove of experience and understanding; it moves with fluidity and grace, despite the great import of its prose and importance within. We take in an entire world with the expenditure of only a few words. This is carefully crafted art, consummate storytelling, and while Hedbor’s previous novels* are radiant, The Wind champions what people have been doing for thousands of years, and fulfills the inbuilt human yearning to be told a story.

As we move closer to the Spanish attempts to wrest back from the British what was taken and divided, we encounter yet more storms, the wind of which carries in what seems like certain fate (see derived hurricane tracks here). Galvez’s forces take their aim at the Siege of Pensacola, the portrayals of which are perhaps the most skillfully executed in the entire novel. Whether inevitable defeat etched out in the scenes sailors witness, anger, upswept optimism or the burden of silent losses, readers are carried on and feel each wave as the pages turn, sense the rise and fall of fortune like the ebb and flow of the sea, smell the salt air that inspires and the longing of separation.

That Gabriel becomes part of a tale for our ears and eyes might be gratifying for him, given that his role—fictional here, though representative of many whose journeys crossed the routes described herein—floundered for quite some time, away from the imagination of the American reader. His aim for a comeback quenches American taste for revivals, and in our quest along with him to attain it, we encounter a story so rich and thrilling, readers will wonder exactly why this account is not more widely known. Thanks to Lars Hedbor, it soon will be, on our own shores and elsewhere.


* Thus far The Prize, The Light and The Smoke.

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Lars D. H. Hedbor tells a little about himself and how his novels came to be…

What made the American Colonists turn their back on their King, and fight for independence? How were they different from us–and how were their hopes and fears familiar to our own hearts?

These are the sorts of questions that I think are important to ask in examining the American Revolution, and in the pages of my novels, I suggest some possible answers.

My first novel, The Prize, was published in 2011, followed by The Light in 2013, and The Smoke, The Declaration, and The Break in 2014; The Wind was published in 2015, and The Darkness in 2016.

I’ve also written extensively about this era for the Journal of the American Revolution, and have appeared as a featured guest on an Emmy-nominated Discovery Network program, The American Revolution, which premiered nationally on the American Heroes Channel in late 2014. I am also a series expert on America: Fact vs. Fiction for Discovery Networks, and will be a panelist at the Historical Novel Society’s 2017 North American Conference.

I am an amateur historian, linguist, brewer, fiddler, astronomer and baker. Professionally, I am a technologist, marketer, writer and father. My love of history drives me to share the excitement of understanding the events of long ago, and how those events touch us still today.

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You can follow and learn more about Lars D.H. Hedbor and his books at his website and blog, Twitter and Facebook. The Wind may be purchased in paperback (signed copies available upon request), as Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo or at Smashwords. (Paperbacks also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble links.)

UPCOMING APPEARANCES

When: Sunday June 4 (1:30-5:00 p.m.): Wilsonville Festival of Arts
Where: 29600 SW Park Place, Wilsonville, OR
The annual Wilsonville Festival of Arts is the Wilsonville Arts & Culture Council signature event. Lars will be meeting with readers and signing books all afternoon.

When: Saturday June 24 (3:45- 5:15 p.m.)
Where: Hilton Portland, 921 SW 6th Avenue, Portland, OR
Historical Novel Society’s 2017 North American Conference Book SigningThe premiere event for historical fiction in North America, the 2017 HNS Conference is being held in Portland, Oregon. Meet Lars and get your books signed during the book sale at the conference!

When: Friday June 23 (10:30- 11:30 a.m.)
Where: Hilton Portland, 921 SW 6th Avenue, Portland, OR
HNS 2017 Imagining the American Revolutionary Era Panel
[Lars D.H. Hedbor, C.C. Humphreys, Laura Kamoie, Stephanie Dray; moderator: Matt Phillips]
Between Outlander, Turn, and Hamilton: The Musical, the American revolutionary era has gained renewed public interest and attention. Join authors established in this era in a discussion of trends and opportunities in American revolutionary fiction, research challenges and advantages, topics and figures ripe for fictionalized treatment, how to incorporate historical sites into your research and promotion, and more.

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Photo courtesy Lars D.H. Hedbor

A copy of The Wind was furnished to the blogger in exchange for an honest review.

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