I’m a fan of Nick Arvin. I have enjoyed his work including Articles of War and The Reconstructionist and have been lucky enough to have him do some Q&A’s for the site (see here and here). So I was excited to learn he had a new novel coming out this month and was able to get a review copy from NetGalley.
Mad Boy, which was released on Tuesday, is a wild, at times hilarious, at times touching, romp set during the War of 1812. The central character, Henry Phipps, is great. Despite possibly being “mad” he has a fierce determination but also a sense of duty and loyalty that carries him through some very difficult circumstances. But he is also obviously a boy; unlike some fiction where the child acts and thinks in ways that are not particularly childlike. The are also many intriguing secondary characters that Henry interacts with along his journey; his mother (dead and alive), his addiction prone father whose luck is always just about to turn, his honor bound brother, an avaricious and traitorous Redcoat, and the wealthy and brutal man who may be his real father.
In the setting and dialog Arvin transport you to a different world. Redcoats and Bluecoats face off, slaves seek their freedom, looters and pirates hope to take advantage of the chaos of war, while many people are trying to survive. Henry just wants to honor his mother’s wishes but doing so, with her voice still in his head, is far from easy.
I found Mad Boy to be a very different book than Arvin’s previous work, but a creative and entertaining one for sure.