To say that Atkinson can tell a story is like saying Sinatra can sing ... Lurking behind all the assembled evidence, which Atkinson has somehow managed to read and digest in a remarkably short period of time, is a novelistic imagination that verges on the cinematic. Historians of the American Revolution take note. Atkinson is coming ... He brings with him a Tolstoyan view of war; that is, he presumes war can be understood only by recovering the experience of ordinary men and women caught in the crucible of orchestrated violence beyond their control or comprehension ... [Atkinson] is not a historical novelist, but rather a strikingly imaginative historian ... Atkinson pays only passing attention to this political side of the Revolutionary story, devoting more space to the policymakers in London than their counterparts in Philadelphia ... a major addition to that ongoing argument. A powerful new voice has been added to the dialogue about our origins as a people and a nation. It is difficult to imagine any reader putting this beguiling book down without a smile and a tear.
... balanced, elegantly written, and massively researched ... Combining apt quotation with flowing and precise original language, Atkinson describes military encounters that, though often unbearably grim, are evoked in vivid and image-laden terms ... His profiles of American and English statesmen and soldiers are fair and sharply etched. His treatment of the elderly Benjamin Franklin, especially his diplomacy in Paris, is masterful and funny ... Aided by fine and numerous maps, this is superb military and diplomatic history and represents storytelling on a grand scale.
... an enchantingly seductive account of the war, from the Battle of Lexington (1775) to the Battle of Princeton (1777), and is chock full of momentous events and larger-than-life characters. Perfect material for a storyteller as masterly as Mr. Atkinson ... stellar prose and 24 exquisite maps ... With so much action involving so many in disparate places, a lesser writer might lose readers along the way. But Mr. Atkinson weaves it all together seamlessly, bringing us with him. Pithy character sketches—reminiscent of 18th-century historians David Hume and Edward Gibbon, both of whom Mr. Atkinson cites—bring the dead to life ... Mr. Atkinson commands great powers of description ... The paragraphs can, at times, be a bit rhythmically formulaic. But the narrative is the stuff of novels ... Mr. Atkinson’s facts are drawn from a wealth of manuscript and printed sources. He quotes aptly and with acumen. Still, some may find this war-centered account rather too dismissive of Revolutionary ideas ... Professional historians occasionally dismiss popular historians who attract large reading audiences. Rick Atkinson is no interloper to be dismissed. His jargon-free books regularly top best-seller lists but also win critical acclaim. Of course, it is difficult to envision a definitive account of the American Revolution. But that awareness only heightens one’s appreciation of Mr. Atkinson’s achievement here, and one’s anticipation for the next two volumes of his Revolution Trilogy.