Review – Whiskey Rebels by David Liss

whiskey rebelsSynopsis

Ethan Saunders, once among General Washington's most valued spies, now lives in disgrace, haunting the taverns of Philadelphia. An accusation of treason has long since cost him his reputation and his beloved fiancé, Cynthia Pearson, but at his most desperate moment he is recruited for an unlikely task - finding Cynthia's missing husband. To help her, Saunders must serve his old enemy, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, who is engaged in a bitter power struggle with political rival Thomas Jefferson over the fragile young nation's first real financial institution: the Bank of the United States.
Meanwhile, Joan Maycott is a young woman married to another Revolutionary War veteran. With the new states unable to support their ex-soldiers, the Maycotts make a desperate gamble: trade the chance of future payment for the hope of a better life on the western Pennsylvania frontier. There, amid hardship and deprivation, they find unlikely friendship and a chance for prosperity with a new method of distilling whiskey. But on an isolated frontier, whiskey is more than a drink; it is currency and power, and the Maycotts' success attracts the brutal attention of men in Hamilton's orbit, men who threaten to destroy all Joan holds dear.
As their causes intertwine, Joan and Saunders - both patriots in their own way - find themselves on opposing sides of a daring scheme that will forever change their lives and their new country.


The Whiskey Rebels is a fictionalized account based upon actual historical happenings. My problem with this review is that I am lacking any knowledge of these events, so whether they are accurate or not I cannot say. I can however say that The Whiskey Rebels is a very entertaining read. Part history, part mystery and part political espionage, I think that this novel will appeal to many different readers.

The story is narrated chapter by chapter in turns by the two main characters, Ethan Saunders and Joan Maycott. While they both have separate stories to tell, they will both come together to create a wholly intriguing tale. I did prefer the narrative of Ethan Saunders because his dialogue and character seemed much more developed. He is dealing with serious issues, but his is told with dashes of humour, which I found to be a charmingly human touch. Joan Maycott’s character is a great representation of a strong, powerful women who will let nothing stand in her way, but her character did not have the depth that Ethan possessed.

The Whiskey Rebels is a very engaging story, with a twisty-turny plot that leads you down many paths along the way. The gigantic cast of secondary characters, which includes such historical figures as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, is also appealing, if a bit hard to keep track of. The one thing I enjoyed most from this novel, is not to do with story or character, but with the writing. David Liss has an amazing way with descriptive writing.

Upon another settee was a couple of some fifty years apiece, handsomely if uninterestingly appointed. The man was a bit on the short side, and plagued with that curious sort of fat which accumulates only in the belly, the rest of his body remaining gaunt, so that he appeared great with child. His gray haired lady, attired in a modest black gown, had pleasing features and must have been acceptably comely some thirty years earlier; probably not so, ten years later.

While reading the above passage I had a crystal clear image of the couple mentioned. These vivid descriptions are found throughout the novel and provide lots of inner eye candy for the reader. Overall I found The Whiskey Rebels an enjoyable experience, however there were times when my interest ebbed, especially during the explanations of economic/financial issues. 

About The Author

David Liss is the author of four novels, with more on the way. David is currently at work on a stand-alone historical novel set in 1790's Philadelphia and New York, due in bookstores in early 2008, as well other projects including another instalment in the Benjamin Weaver series. Born in New Jersey and raised in Florida, David is, in fact, a one-time encyclopaedia salesman. He received his B.A. from Syracuse University, an M.A. from Georgia State University and his M.Phil from Columbia University, where he left his dissertation unfinished to pursue his writing career. David lives in San Antonio with his wife and children.

Author Website

Published by Random House

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


Michele said...

Thanks....I'll be adding this to my TBR pile!

Melody said...

Great review, Joanne! And I love the new look of your blog. :)

Lisa said...

Good review, although I personally found my interest ebbed more than it flowed. Still, the book is an excellent piece of work.

Book Zombie said...

Thanks everybody, it was a tough review to write because there is just so much subject matter within the story. If the writing hadn't been so well done I don't know if I'd have made it through the slow parts.