Sparrowhawk, Book One: John Frake

Written by Edward Cline
Review by Steve Lewis

The first of a series of novels depicting the roots of the American Revolution, Book One takes place entirely in England, which is not too surprising, if you think about it. Jack Frake, who seems destined to be the hero of the entire run, is born in utter poverty but is adopted by a gang of smugglers. As a lad of only ten, uneducated but sharp-witted, energetic and loyal, it is obvious he has a solid future ahead of him.

In an age of rampant corruption and over-taxation, Skelly’s men — the outlaws of the Cornish coast — are in this tale the true Britons; the actions of the Crown are what forced them into a life of crime: “The taxes which we sought to avoid violate our Constitutional rights to property and freedom to trade that property without hindrance or penalty.” Statements like this certainly make you sit up and take notice. Most smugglers are far from as eloquent as the libertarian ones in this book. New Hampshire’s license plate motto of “Live Free or Die” could equally be their own.

So it comes as no surprise to learn in the author’s acknowledgments at the end of the book that he is a devout follower of Ayn Rand. The novel itself is badly paced and over-worded–and yet the characters somehow still manage to come alive, especially at the end, when the threads of their various fates are gradually and deliberately drawn together.