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by C. C. Humphreys
Orion, January 2005
320 pages
ISBN: 0752857053

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is a prequel to JACK ABSOLUTE which was published in 2004. There is no need to have read that book first in order to appreciate this one since the two books are each complete adventures.

Both books are thrillers following Jack's life -- while JACK ABSOLUTE commences in 1777 with the performance of Sheridan's play, The Rivals, from which the playwright has apparently borrowed the name and character of Jack for his hero, THE BLOODING OF JACK ABSOLUTE covers some of the learning experiences of Jack beginning as a child in 1752 and finishing in Quebec in 1760.

The irony of the situation in the first book is that Jack is a spy and the bruiting of his name about in a play is somewhat detrimental to the exercise of that profession. The prequel gives chapter and verse on the peculiar education that makes Jack an ideal spy and the circumstances that propel him into that career.

Period detail abounds to provide a picture of 18th century life in all the cruelty of its dingy and colourful extremes. Jack as a 16-year-old has some skills already but he is untried in dealing with some of the crises that he faces -- the title of the book indicates the significance of the trials he faces.

His attitude towards danger is a sanguine one as you would expect from any teenager in any era but the brilliance, squalor and brutality of his era makes this insouciance seem exceedingly foolhardy. His experiences do moderate his attitude but he continues to enjoy conflict.

The author successfully maintains an atmosphere of looming disaster except when fast and furious action occurs. Jack's initial adventures are in England, mainly in London, then the scene changes to Canada in 1759 with Jack embroiled in bloody battles there with human and natural enemies.

Language is important in this book -- important to the character of Jack and to his Iroquois companion and important to the reader in the rich variety that combines into the flavour of the period. The excitements of the story unroll at a fast and furious pace.

Reviewed by Jennifer S. Palmer, March 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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