One of my reading goals this year was to finish up any trilogies that I had started while they were still fresh in my mind. The Demon Redcoat caps off C.C. Finlay's American Revolution secret history series Traitor to the Crown that started out very strongly with The Patriot Witch followed by A Spell for the Revolution. I thought enough of The Patriot Witch to include it as the Runner-up to Best Fantasy Series debut of 2009. With The Demon Redcoat, Finlay again sets the proper tone enmeshing the reader in what daily life was like during revolutionary times yet making it all feel natural. The customs and dialogue are like something straight out of a historical novel.
Proctor is back to his saving ways as he attempts to finally put a stop to the terror The Covenant has wrought upon the Americas. Only this time he is not only doing it to defend his country, but to protect his daughter with Deborah. To do so Proctor must travel to England to cut off the threat at its source. Lydia travels with Proctor which certainly expands the view of how freed slaves were treated in Europe. This also gives Lydia's character a lot more depth, which she desperately needed after being trod upon so much.
As Proctor makes his way from America to England he travels on the same boat with John Adams, which was quite an infamous voyage that nearly didn't make it. Adams was a colorful character, whose dialogue was pitch-perfect and I wonder if it was drawn directly from historical sources. As always it is interesting to see how Finlay weaves the use of magic to explain oddities of historical records. We are also entreated to a stay with Benjamin Franklin who opens the doors of Europe to Proctor, although I felt Finlay's portrayal of Franklin was a bit on the kind side given some of the dubious actions attributed to him during this period. But Franklin was instrumental in establishing good relations with the French and other underground happenings.
Proctor stumbles around England for a bit too long as Finlay tries to ensnare him in nearly every major event of the time. Yet the history lesson learned is perhaps done better than my professors ever accomplished. I wonder how this series would be treated in high school as supplemental text for those who have trouble with text book learning? Part of the story is told from the view point of Banastre Tarleton who is a British loyalist responsible for keeping the American forces on their toes during this period. Many atrocities were committed by him and his men that are explained away by the demon of the title, which made for a nice twist on the narrative. I could have done with a few more section from Tarleton's point of view, but I can understand why Finlay refrained as some things done in his chapters are quite horrible.
The Covenant illustrious membership is finally revealed, which I'll refrain from going into detail about because it is too good to spoil. Let's just say it is a bit of a who's who of infamous European magical celebrities. Although, I do think Finlay colored one of the leaders much darker than history traditionally paints him.
Overall, it took a bit long to get to the ending, especially with the turnabout Proctor has to undertake towards the end. The time spent on the sea was a too much for me as well as Proctor's time in another famous locale. The final battle itself worked well, but felt a little rushed given everything it took to get there. At this point the formula of the series has grown a little tiresome on me. The Demon Redcoat is still quite enjoyable, especially for alternative history fans, but it felt the most labored out of the lot. Yet the cast of historical characters does enliven the story quite a bit. I give The Demon Redcoat 7.5 out of 10 Hats. I'm eager to see what else Finlay has next in his quiver as he has grown quite a bit as a writer. He has mentioned doing another book in this world although probably later in the timeline with new characters, but he also mentioned recently on twitter that he has changed projects so I'm not sure what to make of that. The first volume of the series The Patriot Witch is still freely available as a full eBook.
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