Saratoga by David Garland

David Garland’s Saratoga is a well-written, fictional account of one of the key turning points of the American Revolution – the Battle of Saratoga.

The book centers on Captain Jamie Skoyles, a career soldier in the British Army who has risen from the ranks (promoted to an officer from the enlisted ranks because of a courageous deed). As the campaign progresses toward the climax at Saratoga, Skoyles’ character changes in several ways. He falls in love with a woman who is betrothed to a fellow officer and he begins to have grave doubts about his military leaders.

I think that Garland did particularly well in describing the characters and their relationship with each other. You can understand Skoyles’ dilemma in regards to his relationship with Elizabeth Rainham – he is beginning to fall in love with her, but he does not want to create friction with the officer to whom Rainham is betrothed to (who happens to be his commanding officer). In addition, Garland nails his characterization of General John Burgoyne, the commander of the British Army, as an over-confident commander who ultimately underestimates the American forces at Saratoga.

Garland has clearly researched the characters and events in the Saratoga campaign. He thoroughly explains the troop movements and maneuvers of the British and American forces. Furthermore, he describes the many challenges that the British Army faced in the campaign – particularly the tension between the British and their Indian allies. For example, after the Indians killed an innocent civilian, General Burgoyne tried to reign in the Indians and punish the perpetrator. However, he was unable to do so because the Indians left the camp.

Based on this first book, I believe that Garland has the makings for a great book series.

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