Rebel is about Nathaniel Starbuck, the son of an abolitionist reverend, who ends up in Virginia during the start of the Civil War. At odds with his family, he remains in the South and fights for the Confederate Army.
It is a book essentially of war, intermingled with love, desire, and family conflict; it shows clearly the tragedy of war as well as the glory of triumph. It is as honestly written as any of Bernard Cornwell's books, almost as if the author is unaware of how the war ends and has no biases toward either side.
There is no denying the sincere bravery of the characters, nor the clarity of the tension before battle. The story culminates with the battle of Bull Run/Manassas, where unlikely heroes narrowly gain the victory by disobeying orders. The fighting itself is written in detail and without hesitance; portrayed as both glorious and horrible, it seems believable in a way that is difficult to attain and rarely found.
Rebel is a book that I think would appeal even to people not already interested in the Civil War and historical fiction. Although the Civil War has been a widely used topic in literature, Rebel stands out as something special. The imagination of the reader is drawn instantly into the plot, as it must be in order to follow the at times confusing story line.
There is no mistaking that this is a truly masterfully written book. Fortunately, the story doesn't end at the last page of Rebel; it continues on in the rest of the Starbuck Chronicles.