The Fiddler’s Gun, A Review: Making History Come True

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A.S. Peterson has crafted a work of compelling historical fiction which begs the question, “Can this really be a debut novel?” With dogged fidelity, Peterson captures the spirit, manners, and social conditions present during the American Revolutionary War. We meet colorful, credible characters who navigate the high seas of life and love, dependence and independence, war and peace, truth and consequence, and despite forays into dark places, The Fiddler’s Gun is beautiful, lyrical, and redemptive.

The novel tracks the adventurous life of Phineas (Fin) Michael Button from birth to early adulthood, which happens to occur during the American Revolution. As an infant, Fin Button had the misfortune of being the thirteenth girl born to a father that wanted and expected his first boy. So he assigned her to a Georgia orphanage where she is raised by a cast of interesting characters.

Phineas Michael Button’s name isn’t the only thing about her that is androgynous. In fact, androgynous may be a word that is too charitable. There is little about Fin Button that is overtly feminine, at least in the classic sense. She is irascible, rebellious, and opinionated, with an appearance and bearing closer to a man, notwithstanding her smallish size. Despite her petulant nature, we detect something good and honorable within her and Fin’s waspish behavior at the orphanage proves to be good training for that which comes later in her life.

One doesn’t usually associate humor with historical fiction, but The Fiddler’s Gun contains hilarious situational comedy. It’s rare to laugh out loud when reading, even when something is genuinely funny, but I often found myself laughing aloud at the absurd, outlandish drollery of Fin Button. (Like the time she fills Sister Hilde’s shoes with cow dung.) We laugh in the same way a grandparent might; the responsibility of discipline rests with another, so we can cackle without consequence.

One character that is particularly well developed is Sister Hilde, the head of the orphanage. Peterson spends a fair bit of time describing this self-righteous woman’s nose, which seems to have a personality all its own. It’s a nose that is perfectly at home on her face. Fin relishes the opportunity to pop the balloon of Sister Hilde’s often questionable plans and policies and conversely, Sister Hilde seems to have developed a personal vendetta against Ms. Button and takes every opportunity to prove it.

Sister Hilde is Fin’s polar opposite. In Fin we see a person whose behavior is sometimes bad, but who’s heart seems like something closer to good. In Sister Hilde, we discern someone whose behavior is apparently good, but whose heart we often question. Sister Hilde will fool many with her pious, self-righteous demeanor, but careful observers will sense something more poisonous under her skin. It may be unfair to call her bad; maybe misguided is a better word.

Brother Bartimaeus, the kindly cook, is a plain-spoken man who harbors secrets from a shady past. Brother Bart long ago found redemption, which finds expression in the way he lives his life and the lovely music he plays on his fiddle. If The Fiddler’s Gun, were a film, Brother Bart would be off-screen much of the time. Still, his influence on Fin extends much deeper than his “screen time.” To Fin, he becomes a father figure, spiritual mentor, and guidance counselor all rolled up into one. Even when he’s not referenced, we sense he is looking over Fin’s shoulder.

The tension is multiplied when the American War of Independence begins to smolder. 9/11 notwithstanding, it’s been a long time since Americans have experienced the physical presence of the enemy in our own backyard. Peterson’s novel is a reminder of how terrifying such a situation might be.

Like all historical fiction, The Fiddler’s Gun, is based on elements of true life and real people. For example, it may be said that Fin Button resembles the historical person, Nancy Hart (also known as The Georgia War Woman). Much of Ms. Hart’s real life is hard to separate from legend and folklore, which makes it perfect as a model for a primary character in historical fiction. The author can take what is known and speculated, and use his imagination to run with it. And run Peterson does. He carries us vicariously on a mad dash of high adventure, an obstacle course of pirate ships, mutiny, bloody battles, and Red Coats hidden in the shadows.

A.S. Peterson is the older brother of recording artist/author/storyteller Andrew Peterson. It’s unfair to A.S. “Pete” Peterson, but for context and informational purposes, it must be noted. Younger brother, Andrew Peterson, has earned a reputation for top shelf, quality work which might seem to set an unfair precedent for his older brother. But this reference is not offered only for the reader’s information, but also to make it known that the elder Peterson shares his brother’s attention to detail, gift with words, and appreciation for beauty. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that if you enjoy Andrew Peterson’s work, there’s high probability that you will appreciate the work of A.S. Peterson too.

Fans of The Fiddler’s Gun will be delighted to know that there is a sequel on the way. The Fiddler’s Gun is the first of two books, concluding with the forthcoming Fiddler’s Green. Initially, The Fiddler’s Gun is exclusively available right here in the Rabbit Room but there’s an audiobook and a Kindle ebook on the way as well.

It’s clear that A.S. Peterson has the writer’s gift. His prose is carefully crafted, with painstaking attention to detail. On the other hand, as I read The Fiddler’s Gun I wasn’t pondering the intricacies of his well-crafted fiction–I had my hands full thinking about the characters, the story, and considering what might come next. And after all is said and read, isn’t that one of the best compliments one can give an author?


19 Comments

  1. Peter B

    Woohoo! Now to get my copy (through several forwarding addresses).

    BTW, “to beg the question” — one of the most oft-misapplied phrases in modern English — actually means to avoid the question.

    This looks like a great read; thank you for doing it justice in foresight.

  2. Paula Shaw

    Waiting anxiously for my copies to arrive in the mail. Hopefully in the next few days! Congratulations to you, Pete!

  3. JessTron

    I picked up my copy at the BTLOG concert in Elmhurst last night and promptly became completely socially obnoxious as I read the book at every moment when the stage was quiet. Now I’ve had my sleep and most of my breakfast, so I think it’s time to put this computer away and get back to the adventures of Fin!

  4. Peter B

    Echo that; the raised seal made it that much more memorable.

    If we don’t get electricity soon, I may be reading this one by firelight… which would be strangely appropriate.

  5. Profile photo of Curt McLey

    Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    Breann and Peter – I had the same thoughts when I noticed the raised seal. At once, it’s prestigious, dignified, and rip roaringly hilarious. The design could not be any better. It’s perfect.

  6. Pete Peterson

    Thanks, Aaron. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it. I’m trying to find the time and energy to finish up Fiddler’s Green. The “day job” is getting in the way at the moment.

  7. Aaron Roughton

    Here’s the solution to your problem: A website called eArtMoney.com It’s a site where bored rich patrons of the arts can be perfectly matched with needy artists to become their benefactors. Then we can put all this day job nonsense behind us once and for all.

  8. dan taylor

    I loved this book. The characters were so well developed. So alive. Very cinematic. Very moving. I could not put it down. But made myself read it slowly so I could prolong the enjoyment. I look forward to the second book. My daughter is currently reading the book and is loving it.

  9. Sally Tooley

    Loved it! I especially appreciated the Kindle version at such a great price. Looking forward to reading the letters too. When should I start looking for Fiddler’s Green (hopefully also on Kindle)?

  10. Profile photo of Pete Peterson

    Pete Peterson

    @pete

    Thanks, Sally.

    Fiddler’s Green will be out in time for Christmas. (Although, I don’t know about the Kindle version…us authors have to eat you know.)

  11. Samantha A

    Mr. Peterson,

    I’m a 17 year old young lady from the heart of Massachusetts.

    My Dad has myself and my 15 year old brother on a reading schedule to help us establish good reading habits. The schedule rotates as such:

    -2 Contemporary authors
    -1 (what we like to call) Dead guy
    -2 More contemporaries
    -1 more dead guy
    -and finally one assigned by Dad.

    Normally we do our best to really enjoy the contemporaries and “dead guys” because it takes a while to read the ones assigned by Dad. This is due to the fact that Dad mainly assigns “Brain Books” aka books that hurt your head and convict your heart, like theological, historical, and really old books.

    When it came time for me to read a book assigned by Dad recently, he pulled out “The Fiddler’s Gun.” I had read your brother’s “Wingfeather Saga” aloud to my family recently, so I was curious as to what you’d write. Later that afternoon when I had a couple minutes, I picked it up and couldn’t put it down! I finished it in less than 48 hours. It was AMAZING, SPLENDID, BRILLIANT, HEART-WRENCHING, GLORIOUS, REDEMPTIVE, and all together WONDERFUL!

    I LOVE pirates (they’re always the good guys when my 10 year old brother needs a bedtime story=), Peter is my favorite character, and British Red Coats really are awful =)

    Thank you sooooooooooooooooo much for writing (and finally publishing) this terrific work. I can’t wait for #2!

    God be with you as you finish the writing process.

    In Christ,
    Samantha A.

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