The King’s Salt

Written by David More
Review by Elizabeth Knowles

In Book Four of the Smithyman Saga, it is 1778, and Sir Thomas Smithyman and his comrades remain loyal to the Crown. They lose everything in New York State during the American Revolution and must forge new lives in a Canada that is not always supportive of them.

As an upstate New Yorker and former Mohawk Valley resident, I have a deep personal interest in the history covered in the Smithyman books. Unfortunately, the author conflates what he calls in his foreword his “real” and “not real” history. He tacks fictitious names onto well-known historical figures; Sir Thomas Smithyman is John Johnson, Matthew Silverbird is Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant), and so forth. This makes for confusion and irritation, as the reader must constantly research what is true and what isn’t. I did find that the historical backdrop seemed accurate for the most part, although More’s densely detailed prose made for a laborious read when combined with the need to constantly fact-check. I think it is unfair to treat revered historical figures in this manner. It cheapens their legacy. One example: Matthew Silverbird is portrayed as an angry drunk in one scene. Yes, it is “fiction” by More’s rules. But Matthew is so obviously Thayendanegea, that the scene seems disrespectful to his memory.

It was interesting seeing the Loyalists’ story from a Canadian viewpoint, and scenes of them becoming established in Canada were among the best in the book.