The Fiery Salamander: Historical Fiction in its rawest form
I don’t read a lot of historical fiction. Actually, I think it’s been more than a few years since I read a historical fiction novel. The Fiery Salamander was a fresh change of pace from the norm, even if it did leave me a bit wanting in the end.
Thus, this review is through two lenses: the reader C.D. Tavenor and the author/editor C.D. Tavenor.
The author/editor C.D. Tavenor appreciates The Fiery Salamander as an ambitious endeavor of historical craftsmanship, with meticulous research and careful thought toward ensuring characters were authentic to the time. The story is told through the eyes of James Kirpatrick, a young man coming of age on the colonial frontier. From the very early pages, it’s obvious Will Robinson has placed every word of this book to create an authentic atmosphere.
Even more so, Will handles the plot involving Native Americans with care. Given the United States tumultuous (for lack of a better word) past with indigenous people groups, it’s really easy to type-cast Native Americans as the “enemy” in this type of story. Robinson avoids this pitfall, writing their narrative with nuance.
However, Reader C.D. Tavenor discovered he no longer has an interest in this style of historical fiction. At no fault to Robinson’s excellent writing, I found it difficult to make my way through this book because it was so thoroughly researched. The historical details, in some sense, grounded it too much in the past, giving an eery sense of authenticity that at times made it feel like a case study from a history book. I think Kirpatrick as a character saved it for me, as his multi-dimensional personality kept the story moving from page to page.
Don’t take those comments as a critique of the book itself; it’s a probably more of a critique upon me as a reader!
Anyway, onto the scores.
Writing: 9/10. It’s hard to pull off first-person present tense with such a detail-oriented historical world to describe. Well done!
Characters: 8/10. Kirpatrick is a great POV character, and the nuanced approach to different people groups dealing with tensions on the frontier established multi-faceted motivations throughout the narrative.
Setting: 7/10. At the beginning of the book, the immediacy of the writing made it difficult to really ground the story at the beginning. As the story continued, that changed, but Robinson loses a few points for the initial lack of place.
Plot: 8/10. As emphasized regarding the characters in Fiery Salamander, the complex motivations come together to tell a very intriguing historical narrative!
Overall: 8/10. Receiving 4 stars, I’d recommend this book for anyone interested in the late colonial period of the United States! Any Hamilton fans out there? Then this book is for you!