Copperhead is the second book in the Starbuck Chronicles, which began with Rebel. It continues the story of Nate Starbuck and his friends, acquiantances, and enemies. Copperhead is written with the same frank honesty as Rebel, this time focusing on loyalty, betrayal, and the pointlessness of war.
Nate is forced to leave the Faulconer Legion due to his feud with the Lord Faulconer. He returns to Richmond, and ends up entrapped in a mesh of spies and secret intelligence. He begins working for the frightening de'Ath, but what he really wants is to return to K Company of the Legion. But if he is to accomplish that he must fight his way through embittered friendship, emotional confusion, and battle. Still, his loyalty to K Company forces him to try.
Throughout all of this, Copperhead remains a stunning story of friendship, the bond between men in war, and true leadership. In the beginning it makes clear both the tragedy and heart-breaking beauty of the hardening of soldiers. By the end we also see the remarkable loyalty of those same soldiers to the leaders that have fought beside them.
Bernard Cornwell brilliantly weaves his plot into brutally intimate emotional turmoil rushing toward intensely detailed battle scenes. He artfully keeps several story lines going at once in a way so that the reader is swept easily from one to another. This is truly a beautiful and vivid story, spanning between the battle of Ball's Bluff to the battle of Gaines' Mill. Down to the smallest detail, the meaning is comprehensible yet elusive. It is the sort of story that will always stay with someone, and an experience more than worth the time spent reading it.