cover image Anson's Way

Anson's Way

Gary D. Schmidt. Clarion Books, $16 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-395-91529-5

Carrying on an old family tradition, Anson Staplyton ships off to Dublin to be a drummer in the Staffordshire Fencibles under his martinet father, the colonel. The lad is eager to help keep the peace in Ireland, but after the Fencibles shoot a poor tenant farmer, flog a man for teaching school and burn a peaceful village, he feels his loyalties painfully divided. Events come to a head when Anson must at once act to save his comrades in arms and the Irish rebels he's befriended. Many readers will find this a real pageturner, for there's plenty of derring-do, but history buffs may be disappointed. Schmidt (The Sin Eater) never establishes a clear time frame, other than to loosely cite George II as king. Accordingly, references to Australia (discovered 10 years after George's death) and other anachronisms point to deficient research. The plot conceit is ahistorical as well, for the only son of a wealthy landed family would almost certainly not have been sent off to be a soldier, nor would all his forefathers, especially since England didn't keep a standing army. Anson, who could be any age from 12 to 17, seems out of time and out of place. Ages 10-14. (Apr.)