The Year of The Hangman by Gary Blackwood is an interesting book. It is a piece of alternate history fiction. This is when a book takes a historical event but gives it a different outcome than what actually happened. In this case, the alternate history is about the outcome of the Revolutionary War. While it is a well known fact that the colonists won the Revolutionary War, this book talks about what it would have been like if the Colonists had lost. This book was published in 2002 and won the School Library Journal Best Book Award in 2002.
The main character, Creighton Brown is a boy around the time of adolescents. His family is historically wealthy but lately, they have not had such great fortune. His father is no longer alive. Creighton was told he died in battle. Creighton is more or less oblivious to this fact. Creighton has been loyal to Britain all his life and truly hates the Colonists. However, due to bad behavior, Creighton’s mother sends him to the Colonies where his uncle lives. On his way to the Colonies, Creighton gets captured with his uncle, Gower, Lieutenant Governor of Florida, and a British Marine Officer whose name is Hale. Hale and Gower eventually escape while Creighton pretends to be an indentured servant and is set free. Creighton acts as a spy on the Colonists. He ends up giving himself up to Benjamin Franklin and works in his paper shop as an assistant. Creighton also finds out that his father is not actually dead. Gower just told his family that he was because he was giving away secrets to the Colonists. Creighton, with the help of Benedict Arnold and his friend Peter save Creighton’s father from the prison. When reading this book, I think it is important to try to appreciate what the author has done. He took something that actually happened and changed the outcome in a drastic way. He had to use his imagination while staying inside the outline of history. In other words, he changed history but made it realistic. This is something difficult to pull off and Gary Blackwood manages it gracefully.
One of the worse things about this book is relatability. When reading this book, I found it hard to relate almost any of the characters to myself. This made it harder to read. The one character who I thought was a little bit relatable was Peter, the clumsy giant. I found him relatable because I feel as though I am clumsy much like him. Peter was a good addition to the book for me. Peter’s feelings towards his clumsiness is something I can relate to even more. Peter and I feel the same in that we are always wondering if we are doing something clumsy. At least that is how I thought about Peter.This book was fascinating. I think that it is definitely a good read. While it is a good book I have a few criticisms. First of all, some of the characters were hard to relate to making the book slightly less interesting. It took me a bit to get into the book. However, once I did, it was a page turner for me. In addition, the fact that it is alternate history was a little confusing to me at first. Gary Blackwood did not write in the book “Creighton said “This is a piece of alternate history which means that the author changed the outcome of something that happened in history.” Obviously that sounds very awkward and I cannot think of a single good place to put that sentence in the book. This is not such a big deal because eventually, one does catch on. It would have been helpful if I had known what kind of book it was beforehand. The weaknesses of the book are fairly minor and the major strength of the book is a big strength. I cannot imagine how careful Gary Blackwood could have been when writing this book. I find that the way he writes about what happened after a failed Revolutionary War is amazing. The author made sure to retain continuity throughout the book so that it truly seems that the Revolutionary War failed. Every detail is meticulously written so that it reflects the alternative outcome to the Revolutionary War.
I recommend this book to people who enjoy historical fiction. I think if you enjoyed Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson then you will also enjoy this book. They take place from around the same time period. I would also say that if you pickup this book and decide that you do not like it in the beginning, you should try to push through to the end. I promise it gets better the more you read.