The second volume is a prequel, going back to years well before Jack became a soldier. Even as a child, he is precocious and must endure hardship within his familial relationships. Seeing how he was treated as a boy, it’s no wonder that he grew into the young man that he did. The bulk of the first half of the novel covers his early adulthood, around the ages of 18-20. Even at such a young age, Jack shows much maturity and ingenuity in his life. He also displays the recklessness of youth, getting in over his head with adversaries and seducing more than one woman at a time. As was seen in Jack Absolute, he often finds himself in perilous situations, some of which are of his own making, circumstances from which he must escape with ingenious and sometimes treacherous tactics.
The first half of the novel centers on the formative years before his military service, characterizing who he is as a person, and introducing us to a truly despicable villain, his cousin Caster Absolute. The contentious relationship between Caster and Jack builds, and at the same time another enemy of Jack’s is made in an influential Lord. By the conclusion of the eleventh chapter, Jack is very motivated to skip town, and he finds his passage out of the country by joining the military.
The second half focuses on Jack’s first tour in North America, specifically in Canada. Once again C.C. Humpries presents historically accurate battle scenes, although in The Blooding of Jack Absolute, there seemed to be fewer chapters devoted to this venue, which I appreciated. I enjoy plot development off the battlefield, although I can appreciate the importance of these warring moments within this particular story. Jack must make his first kill, or “blooding” as a young soldier, and this moment is critical in his life and is referenced more than once later in the novel. The kills on the battlefield are not taken lightly, and Jack never forgets that first, difficult time when he must take the life of another human being.
In addition to becoming an initiated soldier, Jack is forced to learn the ways of the Iroquois Indian, as he becomes a captive with the Iroquois man we come to know as Até. This amazing warrior is presented as Jack’s right hand in the first novel, and I loved seeing how these two future partners met and became friends. Até is a serious, strong individual, prone to unintentional humorous lines. On more than one occasion, I found myself laughing aloud to some of his statements. The development of this relationship between Jack and Até was probably the most enjoyable portion of Blooding. I have purposefully kept my eyes away from plot points of the third novel, Absolute Honour, and I truly hope that we see more of Até spending time with his blood-brother Jack.
Once again, C.C. Humphries has done his homework with historical details, and some of the more enjoyable facts that were shared had more to do with the wilderness survival techniques that Até used while stranded in the woods throughout an entire winter. I learned so much about how the native North Americans utilized the resources around them, giving themselves nourishment, shelter and personal protection. Até not only mentored Jack in the ways of the Iroquois, but he taught me as well. If found it entertaining as well as educational.
As much as I enjoyed Jack Absolute, I think I may have enjoyed its prequel even more. There seems to be fewer battle scenes and more character development. Jack works his way out of all manner of predicaments, using his knowledge, cunning and sometimes sheer luck to survive. He is a loveable scoundrel, and I thoroughly enjoyed the prologue to what came later in his life. His relationship with Até is compelling and full of excitement.
I highly recommend The Blooding of Jack Absolute, but I must inform my conservative readers that the content of the novel is decidedly PG-13. Jack enjoys a robust love life, so there is a bit of adult material as he pursues his women. The men have understandably salty language, as we are spending significant portions of the story on the battlefield. Author C.C. Humphries easily could have made things more colorful and retained a sense of realism, so I appreciate the relative low level of coarse language throughout the book. As there are many conflicts and battles, including those with the native Indians, there are moments that detail exactly what is happening to these men. However, I found this amount of material to be less than the first book, and Humphries could have gone much farther with his detail without being gratuitous.
The Blooding of Jack Absolute was a wonderful follow-up (or preview, as the case may be) to Jack Absolute. The entire cast of characters are colorful and interesting, from Jack to the miscreants we encounter along the way. The heroes are strong and admirable, and the villains are corrupt to the core. This makes for highly enjoyable storytelling. I was so pleased to learn of Jack’s history, and I thoroughly look forward to the concluding novel of the trilogy, Absolute Honour.