“Book Review: How Can a Man Die Better”
Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
A battle for pride, freedom, and revenge
Roy V. Gaston combines his wide-breadth of historical knowledge with a high-stakes revenge story to create the cohesive, ever-changing tale How Can a Man Die Better. This military historical fiction novel is sure to impress history buffs and fiction readers alike.
How Can a Man Die Better begins in the early 1800s with alternating points of view, following around men and their demonstration of new depths of evil. From England to India to America, these men commit gruesome murders, dote clear consciences, and exhibit an evil that has been in them since birth. Then, as these men are united by war, we discover that while each is distinctly different, they all have one major thing in common: a taste for revenge.
What starts out as individual stories soon turns into something much larger. The camera zooms out from early backstories of minor characters into the narrative of our protagonist Cage Carew, smack dab in the middle of the Civil War. Author Roy V. Gaston proves skillful at his task, acting as a puppet master with this historical fiction genre by adding recognizable people from history like Marie Laveau and thrusting them into the plots of clever fictional situations.
While Cage Carew is driven to avenge the murder of his fiancé, the villain (Francois Devol) is driven by his troubled past. This hunger fuels both of them to do unthinkable acts to get what they want, never satisfied by only a portion of their ultimate goal. Will their thirst lead to their success, or will we discover that true satisfaction is only for a select few?
“He often pledged to her that he would have even more than this one day. When he said that, she always told him, ‘Well if you want it, you have to be ruthless. Can you be ruthless?'”
Through its many characters, How Can a Man Die Better conquers weighty themes of pride, failure, racism, and more. Though hard to keep track of at times, each character feels intentional and useful, and readers experience a range of feelings at the many unfortunate circumstances they go through. In smooth description and tight storylines, we follow men and women at war and fear for their futures.
Weaving in the topic of race through the narrative, Gaston vividly depicts a time in America where slavery was considered a booming business to some and an abomination to others. The horrific detail surrounding slavery feels both uncomfortably realistic and necessary in order to accurately depict this time period. Gaston doesn’t shy away from vulgarity and is blunt in his descriptions of violence to black and white people alike. This is something to be expected in a story about mid-1800s America, so gird your loins. This story gets gruesome, but don’t worry, it’s got heart too.
How Can a Man Die Better will keep fans of military fiction and historical fiction on their toes with its powerful themes and action-packed storylines. Prepare to go through love, loss, and history when you pick up this entertaining debut from Roy V. Gaston.
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