Restless Heart is an epic novel, which falls neatly and originally within the characteristics of literary and historical fiction. Set in 1840s America in the midst of great expansion and Manifest Destiny, a young man sets out on a journey of self-discovery, adventure, and love. The story follows recent Oxford University graduate, Konrad Quintero de Leon, upon his return home to New York City and the aristocratic life that awaits him there. Konrad, unready to settle down into that lifestyle, heads off to New Orleans with his childhood friend, the energetic and loveable, Miriam Monroe. From New Orleans, Konrad goes on great adventures across the frontier, but when he falls for Anastasia Carriere, he must choose between love and his restless heart.
Friedrich stopped before me but did not look up from his saber. He studied every inch of it from pommel to tip.
“I’ve had this sword for thirty years. My father had it made special and gave it to me when I joined the Lutzow Free Corps to fight Napoleon’s army. It is the greatest gift he has ever given me. You see the engraving here at the bottom of the blade? Justicia Per Deus. Verum Per Animus. Officium Per Pectus pectoris.”
“Justice by God. Truth by will. Duty by heart,” I repeated.
“Yes, and do you understand what it means?”
“Yes, I think so. What does it mean to you?”
Friedrich chuckled. “To me, it means to leave justice in the hands of God. Do not let the injustices of the people around you irritate your mood and fill you with anger. It means that you will find truth in your life by your strength and determination to seek it. And, finally, it means that your duty to man and to yourself comes from what your heart tells you is right. No man can know another man’s duty. Do you understand this?”
“Good. It is yours now.”
Friedrich held the saber out to me. It was lying across his open palms, glistening in the candlelight. The Latin engraving flashed in my eyes.
“I can’t. I couldn’t possibly…” I did not know what to say.
“You can, and you will. It is a parting gift.”
“My father gave me this sword as a gift before I left on the greatest journey of my life. He promised that it would guide my way. Now, I give it to you as you embark upon your greatest journey. It will guide you as it has guided me.”
I slowly took the sword from him and held it before my face. I eyed it up and down in awe. It felt so light and so natural in my hands. It was a perfect sword. I had never seen such craftsmanship.
“Uncle, my journey is on a boat from Britain to America. It hardly calls for such a gift.”
“So, you plan to go home to New York and get a job, do you? Work with all of those rich friends of yours, hmm? No, I think not. You will not sit still for long. There is great adventure in America, and I know that you will seek it. I am giving you this sword for a reason. It belongs with an adventurer. Those days are over for me, but yours are just beginning. I know you will not disappoint me.”
I was struck dumb by his words. My mouth stood agape like a young boy who had just seen his first naked woman. I could not force any words out of my mouth. I had not made plans upon returning home to New York and had no idea what I would do. As the day of my leaving approached, I felt that I had progressively been losing my mind while trying to figure out what in God’s name I was going to do when I returned home.
My uncle’s words had not made things more clear but only more confusing. He could see that he had made my mind race. He chuckled as he looked into my glazed eyes.
“Do not think so hard right now. You have a long boat ride ahead of you. For now, you must pack your things. We leave at sunup.”
“Thank you for the sword, Uncle.”
Friedrich smiled and bowed. I turned and went to my room to pack, all too aware of the fact that I had just received my final lesson from Uncle Friedrich.
Everything in this book, right from it's title, fits so well. The main character,Konrad Quintero de Leon,takes us on a wonderful journey,(where we learn so much about the history of the nineteenth century in such interesting style), as seen through his eyes, and because the story is written in the first person, we come to know Konrad and what he experiences and feels very well. All, from the imagery to the questions that are raised are presented so well, that it is incredible to me that someone so young could write with such ease and grace.
Reviewed by Larry Phillips
by Barbara Miller - Pacific Book Review
T. William Phillips emerges on the literary stage of greatness with his destined-to-be-epic novel Restless Heart. “To thine own self be true,” echoes from William Shakespeare, whereas “Justice by God. Truth by will. Duty by heart,” will be etched in the memory of the readers of T. William Phillips’ exquisite novel.
The book is appropriately titled Restless Heart, as “restless” is indeed the proper adjective to describe the heart of Konrad Quintero de Leon. The reader is taken on a journey throughout the expanding United States of America during the mid 19th Century, a formative era often overlooked in contemporary literature. Written in the first person, as if it were an ambrosial diary professing the most intimate thoughts and observations of Konrad, the reader gets immersed within this novel. It is fair to say the book is written within Konrad’s mind. The events are seen through his eyes, the dialog from his words or to his ears, his destiny chosen by his thoughts, revealed only to him as well as to the privileged readers. This creates a most memorable experience, transporting one into a surrealistic zone laying witness to this man’s life from within his mind, through the words of his narration, as honest as a confession to God.
Phillips writes a complex storyline not unlike how Charles Dickens’ told his story in his novel Great Expectations, is reminiscent of love’s passion and tolerance similarly to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, and exhibits the power of destiny like in Doctor Zhivago from Boris Pasternak’s novel. Yes, those are bold statements, I realize, but that’s the tone of Restless Heart. Take, for example, an excerpt when Konrad was fighting with the Texas Rangers Phillips writes:
“What if I die here today? I asked myself. What if this is the last thing I ever do? Has my time come so soon? Could it be? Is it possible that my fate is to die here in the walls of this Mexican city? If it is my fate to die now, will I be happy with the life I leave behind? No! There is so much more I must do! So much I don’t know!”
T. William Phillips has certainly done his research establishing his characters with complete credibility, conviction and confidence. Paralleling history with exact adherence to people and events which helped shaped this country; he interlaced human conduct within his characters with an inherent wisdom beyond his years. The self-evident amount of work that has gone into his creation shows a humble respect for those fortunate enough to find the opportunity to read his novel. My advice to all is if you can’t find the opportunity to read this – make it. This book should be required reading by English Literature courses and novelist’s workshops. Impeccable in presentation, T. William Phillips is by all accounts destined to become renown in our day as a contemporary literary force and an inspiration to all writers