3 out of 4 stars
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The Deserving by Efren O’Brien is a rich and informative story that reads like a fascinating history book.. This historical fiction is one of the best I’ve ever read in the genre, with its descriptive settings and realistic battles and characters, though it took me a lot longer to read than most books. This book is a highly enjoyable book and a worthwhile read - however, if you are new to reading historical fiction, it’s probably best not to start with this one.
Emile Deschampes grew up in Louisiana in the 1800s, and ran away from home at 15 to escape his abusive father. At 18, he joined the Union army and proved himself as a true soldier, enduring hardships that won him rank and influence. During his time in the army, he met a young woman named Carmen, and after the war, Emile eventually ended up in her home town of San Antonio, Texas, and married her. Years later, when Aubrey McGrath, a former Confederate general who injured Carmen and attempted to kill Emile during the war, shows up in San Antonio with a plot to start a second Civil War, Emile must decide whether to ignore the warning signs or do everything in his power to stop McGrath despite personal risk to himself and Carmen.
It’s abundantly clear that the author did his research. At times, it’s hard to tell where fact ends and fiction begins, and the amount of detail described is mind-boggling. He also has a deep, firm grasp on the English language, using it to great effect during this story. He gives readers up-close looks at the history, culture, facts, and legends surrounding the Civil War and that era of history. I was impressed at the depth of this narrative, though it sometimes felt unnecessary.
I did notice that sometimes the story felt a little bit dry – more ‘history book’ than ‘historical fiction’ at times – but this may be because I haven’t read much historical fiction in a long while. A couple of errors that could be easily fixed by a more thorough proofreader, mostly involving missing commas, would be helpful as well, but this did little to detract from the overall story. Comparatively speaking, it’s much better edited than several books I have read recently.
Really my only major complaint is that it’s hard to follow the story. All the detail and in-depth scenes are well-researched, but the story itself is swallowed up in it, and there are so many characters that it’s hard to keep track of who is important and who is not. It’s like the author got so interested in describing specific events that occur during the story’s timeline, he forgot about the story at hand, before coming back to complete the narrative. I had a hard time figuring out enough of the storyline to sum it up in this review, and I found myself reading several sections multiple times.
This is historical fiction at its best – though unfortunately I have to take a point off for the hard-to-follow storyline. I rate it 3 out of 4 stars for its well-researched, well-rounded scenes and characters, and its realistic and descriptive take on the Civil War. Whether you are a history buff or a simple fiction lover, you will enjoy this story, provided you factor in the time it will take you to read it.
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