“The Smoke” is the third audiobook in the wonderfully written historic “Tales from the Revolution” series by Lars D. H. Hedbor. The book’s Audible narration was professionally performed by Shamaan Casey; who has narrated the previous books in the series as well. This series of audiobooks place the listener in various locations around the United States along with the situations uniquely taking place during that period in the Revolutionary war; 1775 through 1783. This audiobook drops the listener in to the more rural areas of New York state where there are still plenty of woods, homesteading, British troops and Native Americans. I consider this series to be more classified as edutainment (education and entertainment) because there is a fair amount to be learned from the story while the author includes elements of action and adventure found in a piece of fiction. If you are a person who likes to learn while listening to an audiobook, I think you will find this series rather enjoyable.
One of the aspects I have gleaned from each of the audiobooks in the series, including this one, is just how harsh and difficult living during this period would have been. Many of the necessities we take for granted today were not even imagined or possible during this period of history. Add to all of this a harsh and unforgiving New England winter and one begins to see the overall gravity of the situation people were facing, and this is not even accounting for war. Often, one hoped simply to survive to see the next day, and for many, sadly, it never came. The necessity of using hardtack (a simple long-lasting bland biscuit) to provide sustenance and calories when other food was scarce. The requirement of bone saws to address the issues around gangrene and the many other ailments one would face. The author did an excellent job helping me see this harsh way of living as I listened. Yet, neither the author nor the characters in the story complained about the life they were given.
The audiobook is geared toward the early teen listener (11-13). Yet, I found it well-crafted and enjoyable for older audiences as well. Many chapters of the book are spent going between the Colonials and their goals while others were focused from the perspective of the local Native American tribes. This trade-off worked well until the two groups and their situations began to blend towards a central goal. Here, chapters often blended the views of both parties and I thought it was done rather well. I also found that the addition of humor also brought some lightless to a story that could have been too gloomy. I often found myself smiling or laughing at the many analogies and metaphors the Native Americans contributed.
I found the research used for the audiobook to be what one would expect from a piece of good historic fiction. The author even included a closing chapter giving the listener some additional background on the place, people, and situation from which the story was crafted. What I did find interesting were the views of both people groups compared to the more historic norms. The Native Americans were not as much savages as often portrayed and in some cases were even welcomed when assisting the United States with the war. I was able to learn about how matriarchal many of the Native American societies were along with a few of their religious practices. Not only this, but we also see that these people group were like many others who loved, fought, and even had time for some needed fun. Ball games and other related sports were covered in this book.
Even though the book is a bit short in length (shy of five hours), there was quite a bit packed in making it feel much larger. Based on the other books in the series, I felt this one spanned a bit more time and for me it was harder to get my head around this point until a ways in. Once I caught on, it was much easier going forward. Birthing a baby, learning a new language, and a few other events seemed to occur rather quickly. But, because of this time span, the author was able to weave in some events of happiness, sadness and even mourning. The span in time also permitted the author to build on friendships, brotherly love along with the bonds created by those facing battle. What made this all the more difficult was that each of the groups involved in our story leveraged means of deception to fool the other.
The audiobooks narration was clean, crisp, deep and rich with atmosphere. Mr. Casey reads at a steady pace which aligns with most listeners abilities. The audio itself was clean of any defects or audio artifacts (pops, clicks, background noise, or swallows). I have to give credit as the book contains many difficult names to pronounce and I felt that the narrator did an exceptional job here as well. The ability to switch between conversing characters also was done flawlessly by the narrator while listening. Mr. Casey adds a level of depth and complexity to the book’s characters and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
For parents and younger readers, like with the other books in this series, there was no use of vulgar language or mature material. There is some light graphic violence, however this is not more than what one would expect from a historically accurate tale. I would recommend this book and the series to readers interested in the United Stated Revolution time period. On audible, the book is classified as for teens aged 11-13. As I said earlier, it can be enjoyed by all.
In summary, if you are a history buff or someone that likes to learn new things while being taken on an adventure, I would recommend this book and the series. The writing is not overly complex, the story is enjoyable and engaging, and the narration is solid. Even though it is a bit short, one comes away with learning about actual history and having fun doing it.