by K.C. Fusaro
The Wages of Glory is the second installment in the colorful and unpredictable life of Captain Sedition aka courier Joethan Wolfe, set against the backdrop of the first American Civil War in the late-eighteenth century.
All the excellent hallmarks of The Death of the Age of Reason (Book 1)* are present and correct in this subsequent expedition. Not only is the novel tremendously entertaining and full of suspense, but the lively historical insight, geographical detail, and military knowledge are, once again, richly impressive. They fully complement Wolfe and his exploits without overshadowing them.
Nonetheless, there are subtle yet profound developments, especially for Wolfe who finds himself at something of a metaphorical and literal crossroads, following the battles at Lexington and Concord.
Indeed, several possibilities are lined up for him; privateering with his Pap, returning to work with Dr. Franklin, or fighting with Joseph Warren alongside the rebels, and what of Pru Forester, the childhood friend he swore he would return to?
The Wages of Glory is more measured and systematic than the first novel and, for a sequel, all the better for its thoughtfulness. Fusaro has placed Wolfe on a convincing character arc. He is still the witty, beguiling cat with nine lives, approaching and escaping conundrums with a sense of wry amusement that disguises a razor-sharp intellect and focus.
But, in The Wages of Glory, there is an air of matured introspection to his actions, a reflective concern for their consequences, and a sharper awareness of others’ feelings.
In The Death of the Age of Reason, Wolfe directed from front and center, always in control of his narrative (as much as history would grant) even if he allowed those around him to think otherwise.
However, in The Wages of Glory, he openly relaxes a little, losing the egotistical bent that, in parts, previously threatened to overwhelm him. He is not quite so central, and content on occasion (or so it appears) to be guided by others and their emotions.
This objectivity is especially obvious in his relationship with Pru, and their interactions are weighted with her unspoken desires and drive. Notwithstanding, never underestimate Wolfe as his ruthlessly vindictive action toward Reginald Reddy at the end of the novel demonstrates.
There is a large cast in The Wages of Glory, the characters drawn from actuality and imagination. All integrate seamlessly and there are some lovely characterful portrayals. Fusaro takes absolute care with even the most minor of players to bring them fully to life with nuanced individuality and often, comically authentic physical detailing and habits.
Billy Chalke was an especially good addition, cleverly utilized to provide humor, context, and backstory during the opening chapters, before the dynamic between him and Wolfe strengthened to become one of quiet value. As was Mingo aka Abel Francois, and his passage echoed through the centuries with contemporary relevance.
As Wolfe journeys through both landscape and events, Fusaro capably weaves an engrossing, knowledgeable, and intelligently constructed plot around both him and the quirky ensemble he seems to attract; part chronicle, pilgrimage, and fiction - it works incredibly well.
Captain Sedition (Book 2): The Wages of Glory is a worthy successor to the first book; the superbly considered blending of history and fiction combined with the accomplished prose make this novel a compelling and engaging read. Highly recommended.
*Click here for my review of The Death of the Age of Reason (Captain Sedition Book 1)