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Sunday, February 26, 2017

THE FORT: A NOVEL by Bernard Cornwell

Not Cornwell's Best Effort.

Published in 2010 by HarperCollins

Set in 1779 Massachusetts, Bernard Cornwell tells the story of the Penobscot Expedition - a small scale invasion by British forces of a bay in what is now Maine.

The government of Massachusetts is determined to repel this invasion without help from the Continental Army. It calls up its militia and its fledgling navy. It does accept help from the American national Navy and its contingent of Marines. By far, the most famous American in this campaign is the commander of the Massachusetts' artillery unit, Lt. Colonel Paul Revere.

Cornwell does a decent job of developing the British officers as characters.  A young officer named John Moore gets his first taste of battle here. In the Napoleonic Wars, Moore was one of the architects of Napoleon's eventual defeat.

Cornwell's battle scenes are, as always, excellently described. He switches from naval battles to land battles with ease. I felt absolutely confident that I had a reasonable grasp of the strategy and tactics of the battle and the successes and failures of the various officers that led to the outcome of the battle.

But, this book has glaring weaknesses.

Paul Revere (1734-1818)
Cornwell never makes it clear as to why Massachusetts refuses to even ask for help from the Continental Army until it is much too late. My opinion is that Massachusetts was very interested in asserting its independence - not just from England but even from the Continental Congress. But, I am basing that on previous knowledge, not from anything that Cornwell provided.

Paul Revere is a star of the book even though he is actually a fairly minor character in the book when it comes to dialogue. He is not even in most of the scenes that refer to him - there are a lot of references to him not being present at locations where he certainly should be present because he is sleeping on a ship or he is waiting for his cook to prepare his breakfast somewhere. The reader just knows that he is a diva but there is no explanation as to why.

The reasons for the British invasion of this particular bay is also not even made clear. This is a fairly lengthy book, but if I were the editor I would have suggested the addition of a few more pages to make the historical context of the story a lot more clearer and make the importance of what is happening here give the story even more drama.

I rate this novel 3 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Fort by Bernard Cornwell

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