But for Freedom; Across the Sea Beyond Skye: by Elizabeth Rodger

But for Freedom; Across the Sea Beyond Skye by Elizabeth Rodger
Published: May 2011
Publisher: Lillibett Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Scottish / American Historical Fiction
Pages: 346
Available: ebook, paperback

Reviewers note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. If you are interested in viewing or purchasing this book, click on the cover of the book or the buy now button at the bottom of the review.

The Plot in brief: The story follows the plight of the McKenzie Family, Donald, Morag and their children in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden in 1746. This decisive battle was fought between Jacobite Highland forces loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Stuart Pretender and those who supported King George I. The Highlanders were routed  and in retribution the glens were emptied of their inhabitants. The McKenzie family decide their only hope is to abandon Scotland and immigrate to Virginia. 

The Characters: The main characters of the story are the McKenzie family with emphasis on Donald, his wife Morag and their eldest son Robbie. They are sympathetically portrayed as a loving, hardworking and god fearing family. Other characters either help or hinder the McKenzies in their quest for economic stability and include African slaves, Native Americans, fellow Scottish immigrants and the occasional Virginian. Some are predictable in their actions and some crossover into caricatures which I found a bit off-putting. This was especially true of the Native American character and some slaves. 

The History: It is clear the author has done her homework and done it well. The historical setting rings true from the lifestyle, food, clothing, habitation to cultural and religious customs of the day. I enjoyed the description of the mountains of the Highland Glens, as the McKenzie's flee the wrath of the soldiers. The hideous sea crossing is eye opening and makes me wonder how anyone survived. I also enjoyed the depiction of life in 18th century Williamsburg, Virginia. Although familiar with indentured servitude, it was very interest to read about the process once the individual landed in Virginia; I had no idea how the process worked and found it enlightening. 

I did not spot a single thing that sounded out of place. Well done. 

The Writing: The book is written in 3rd person, past tense with multiple POVs. I'm not a fan of head jumping within a chapter which happens here, but it wasn't too distracting as the author makes clear who is controlling the narration at any given time. The book is well edited with very few typos. At times the pace is slow, and I found myself peeking ahead to see if something more interesting was coming around the corner. 

I did have an issue with the dialogue which is all written in the vernacular of the day. The Scottish speech is difficult to read at first and once I got the hang of it I still found it irritating. Of course, the African slaves have their own speech style as does the Native American. 

The dialogue of broken or accented English is slotted into a very formal at times stiff sounding narration. The juxtaposition was jarring. I'm all for using 'big' words when 'big' words are called for but I felt the narrative flow rubbed against the simplistic spoken language and the two didn't always get along and occasionally made for a boring read. 

Overall: Overall, I enjoyed But for Freedom: Across the Sea Beyond Sky. I thought the historical aspect highly interesting and kept me reading when otherwise I might have put the book down. I appreciate the amount of research that went into the story and it always a bonus when I learn something new, which I did! The author did an excellent job of immersing her readers into the setting.

I look forward to reading and reviewing Book 2 of the series: But For Freedom: A Rebellious Echo of the White Cockade, which follows the McKenzies through the American Revolution. 

Recommendations: I would recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction, especially those who enjoy Scottish or Colonial American history. 

I give this book: 4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐


My Ratings: 

1  Star: Not good at all, do not read!

2  Stars: Read only as a last resort, no other books available

3 Stars: Good, enjoyed it, will recommend with reservations

4 Stars: Really good, read this book!

5 Stars: So good, I might read it again sometime! Highly recommend.


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