The Smoke of Her Burning by M J Logue [Book Review]
The Smoke of Her Burning is the fourth in the Hollie Babbitt Uncivil Wars series. Set after Command the Raven and before A Wilderness of Sin. The Smoke of Her Burning covers the tale of Hapless Russell’s nadir and then his redemption.
The Smoke of Her Burning
Hollie Babbitt returns to his pregnant wife Het for winter quarters in 1643. He expects a quiet winter with his wife before the birth of his son (or daughter). Babbitt is accompanied on his return journey by Cornet Pettitt and his father Lije Babbitt.
Meanwhile we see a glimpse of Russell. Having been injured in the face at Edgehill by a splintered pike he is taking his disfigurement badly. Russell takes to drinking heavily. The Smoke of Her Burning shows his desperate need to be loved and wanted. By chance he meets his childhood sweetheart, now married to a wealthy and influential merchant. She still cares for him and takes him outside after dinner. This is Russell’s downfall, he’s caught in an adulterous embrace.
The imprisoned Hapless makes an attempt on his own life. This fails, but the rumour is that Essex means to help him along. While Babbitt appeals for clemency Luce breaks Russell out. Together they join Fairfax in his campaign in Yorkshire to get away from Essex’s influence.
Most of the action in the Smoke of Her Burning is in the siege and then assault on Selby. We see Gray and Russell develop a lot. Luce Pettitt also grows in his command and becomes more independent. The Smoke of Her Burning is very much about Russell and Gray more than any other characters, although told mainly from Babbitt’s point of view.
As with the rest of the series the Smoke of Her Burning is very much a social history set in the civil war period. The military arts of it are minimal, but still good and only there because they are essential to the story.
Well worth reading, although I would read this in its chronological order rather than publication order.