A Wilderness of Sin is chronologically the fifth in MJ Logue’s “An Uncivil War” series of novels featuring Colonel Hollie Babbitt and his troop of parliamentary soldiers during the English Civil War. For personal reasons Logue published A Wilderness of Sin out of sequence (at the time of writing this review books 3 and 4 were still to be published), but as Logue herself says in the pre-amble, “you’ve missed nowt.”
At first sight you might be forgiven for thinking that Logue’s books are similar in style to those of Michael Arnold, but as you read them, you realise that her novels are less concerned with the historical course of the military campaigns or with the blood and guts of warfare, than with human interaction at times of crisis, and the description of relationships is something which Logue does particularly well.
A Wilderness of Sin is the author’s best book yet, and as the series develops, the depth of her characterisations have grown accordingly. Here the main story revolves around three key relationships – the shared experience of Babbitt’s junior officer Luce Pettit and the diminutive trooper Gray (I will not expand on this here for fear of ruining the story), the interaction between the convalescing Thankful Russell, Babbitt’s wife Het and Babbitt’s two year old daughter Thomazine, and the love-hate relationship between Babbitt himself and his preacher father Elijah.
I found the description of the relationship between Russell as he slowly regains his sight and Thomazine to be particularly poignant.
Logue never lets you forget the fragility of life under conditions of war, but the underlying message of her story lines is that, even at times when human beings are being stretched to the limits of their endurance, the underlying goodness of humanity will always shine through – and that’s what makes A Wilderness of Sin such an uplifting read.