adbl_ms_membershipImage_includedwith_altText_B076FLV3HT
adbl_ms_membershipImage_includedwith_altText_B076FLV3HT

1 audiobook of your choice.
Stream or download thousands of included titles.
$14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $34.95

Buy for $34.95

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

A New York Times best seller

Winner of the George Washington Prize 

A surprising account of the middle years of the American Revolution and the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold, from the New York Times best-selling author of In the Heart of the Sea, Mayflower, and In the Hurricane's Eye.

"May be one of the greatest what-if books of the age - a volume that turns one of America’s best-known narratives on its head.” (Boston Globe)

"Clear and insightful, [Valiant Ambition] consolidates Philbrick's reputation as one of America's foremost practitioners of narrative nonfiction." (Wall Street Journal)

In the second book of his acclaimed American Revolution series, Nathaniel Philbrick turns to the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold. 

In September 1776, the vulnerable Continental army under an unsure George Washington evacuated New York after a devastating defeat by the British army. Three weeks later, near the Canadian border, one of his favorite generals, Benedict Arnold, miraculously succeeded in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have lost the war. As this book ends, four years later, Washington has vanquished his demons, and Arnold has fled to the enemy. America was forced at last to realize that the real threat to its liberties might not come from without but from within.

Complex, controversial, and dramatic, Valiant Ambition is a portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation. 

©2016 Nathaniel Philbrick (P)2016 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Benedict Arnold takes center stage in Nathaniel Philbrick’s vivid and in some ways cautionary tale of the Revolutionary War. The near-tragic nature of the drama hinges not on any military secrets Arnold gave to the British but on an open secret: the weakness of the patriot cause.... Arnold’s betrayal still makes for great drama, proving once again that the supposed villains of a story are usually the most interesting." (New York Times Book Review)

"Philbrick's deep scholarship, nuanced analysis, and novelistic storytelling add up to another triumph." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

“A lively account of our Revolutions’ most reviled figure.” (Kirkus Reviews)   

What listeners say about Valiant Ambition

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    895
  • 4 Stars
    409
  • 3 Stars
    99
  • 2 Stars
    16
  • 1 Stars
    6
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    894
  • 4 Stars
    289
  • 3 Stars
    66
  • 2 Stars
    13
  • 1 Stars
    5
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    816
  • 4 Stars
    337
  • 3 Stars
    85
  • 2 Stars
    21
  • 1 Stars
    5

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic book that every American should read

I loved everything about Valiant Ambition. Other biographical or historical accounts of the Revolutionary War tend to be dull, lifeless, academic affairs. This book brings the characters and stories of the Revolution to life in a vibrant way. From Washington to Arnold to all the men and women around them, the book breathes life into names and places that are not done justice by drier histories or accounts. Valiant Ambition succeeds in capturing the desperation of the war, and it even succeeds in making some deeper political and philosophical points. It is, put simply, the best book on George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Revolutionary War I've ever read.

The narrator is also excellent, making this already engrossing book darn near dangerous. Be warned: You won't be able to stop once you press play.

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Heroes are built on character, not on deeds alone

The name Benedict Arnold is synonymous with treason in the US. I don’t remember hearing anything good about him in school history classes, though I am sure that there is a lot that was said that I don’t remember. But, as is usual, there is more to the story than the caricature that we know. Many people on both sides thought that the war would be won quickly. Washington took some reckless risks in the early years that were disastrous and there were many close calls that nearly ended the war. Washington considered Arnold to be among the best leaders in the army. He was brave and he commanded from the front, not from the rear. He had the respect of his men. However, as we know from history class, the colonies wanted freedom from tyranny of the British King and Parliament, but they didn’t see any reason that they had to be united in any other way than for that cause. And, the Continental Congress was marred by infighting factions between the different colonies/states and between different philosophies of what they should become. The longer the war went on, the more pronounced the divisions, and the less passion there was for the cause. There were times when only a third of the delegates showed up and once as low as 13. There was no power to tax, and each stated was only interested in supporting its own militia, and even that was minimal. Valley Forge was not just because it was a bad winter (a much worse would come 2 years later). It was also because there was no money. Washington struggled with keeping an army together. A soldier’s enlistment was for a year, and many were unwilling to extend beyond that, especially when they were not getting paid. But, part of the scheme to have some bit of unity among the colonies was a quota system that required a certain number of generals from each colony. And, they were chosen by the Congress, not by Washington. Arnold was expecting to be named a Major General only to be passed over despite Washington’s recommendation. When he was finally appointed, others who had been appointed earlier still had seniority over him. Several battles were won due to his leadership, while others got the credit. And, officers came from the wealthy and covered their own expenses. Arnold’s fortunes were nearly exhausted within a few years. He was seriously injured several times, but the last time was so serious that the doctors wanted to amputate his leg. He refused, but would be severely crippled for life. And, he had got it riding into battle, while General Gates was sitting in his tent far from the battle lines, yet Gates was credited with the victory. But, there were many other generals who were also overlooked. What made Arnold become a traitor? It’s clear that he was a committed patriot fighting for colonies, and it’s clear that the reasons are not so simple. There are lots of factors, frustration with having been overlooked, love, money, and disillusionment. Charleston had already fallen and it seemed that the war might soon be lost. But, that doesn’t reduce the blame on him. The book makes a point in showing how much he and Washington were alike. Washington was also criticized and there had been many plots to remove him from command and a serious cabal trying to discredit him. But, Washington was committed to the principle of submitting to the Congress despite its ineptitude and infighting. He also was angered with the situation, but remained in service to the Congress. And, Washington had grown as a general, become less impulsive and more strategic. Interestingly enough, Arnold may have been a significant influence on saving the revolution. When his treachery was discovered, it began to bring people together and especially the Congress. It reignited the passion for independence and loosened the purse strings. It also began to force people to think about what freedom really meant. Was it libertarian, the less government the better? Or, was throwing off the bondages to mean that we would unite ourselves to each other, to each colony. After Arnold’s defection, the trend was toward the latter and the tide continued to grow until the Constitution which truly made the United States united was written and ratified. There are a lot of interesting tidbits in this book, but one of them is that though the army in the beginning was probably mostly native born, by the last couple of years of the war, it had become mostly immigrants from Scotlland, Ireland, and Germany, as well as many freed slaves. It was immigrants who won our independence, not native born Americans. Another is that early in the war, Arnold suggesting offering freedom to any slaves who would commit to fighting in the army until the war was over. How different the US might have been if his suggestion had been followed. Very good book, if not also sad. It’s a warning that should make us think more about what our liberty means today as well as why we should be looking for leaders who unite us instead of setting us one against the other. Heroes are built on character, not on deeds alone.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

A Great Book That Lacks a Conclusion.

I loved hearing the other details of Benedict Arnold's rise and fall and an insider's view on the Rev. War. But, the author should have gone into more detail of what happened after the treason was discovered. What happened to Arnold in the British Army, and the massacre that he unleashed on the Continentals. What about after the war? It just ends without even talking about the end of the war, what happened to Arnold and his wife, kids. It's like the author got tired of writing, then just quit.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

The Founding Fathers in Three Dimensions

Who was your favorite character and why?

George Washington. Without question the indispensable man, but a man non-the-less, with flaws and blind spots as well as towering strength and character.

Any additional comments?

You think Congress is dysfunctional now? This book will give you some perspective. Washington rose above it and fathered a republic. Benedict Arnold allowed the same Congress to drive him into becoming a synonym for traitor. The story of why is fascinating.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A deeper insight into the American revolution

This book gave me a new and Federer insight into the revolutionary war. It gave a new humanity to George Washington and also the squabbling involved in the continental Congress. I am left wondering if Arnold had been treated better by the continental Congress he would have remained loyal and made a strong positive contribution to the revolution.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Not his best Work...

I had been waiting patiently for another book by Philbrick, hoping for another classic to add to my book shelf/audio collection. I've read them all, and I generally like what he writes about and how. This one just didn't keep me interested. Oh, I finished it but I didn't feel like the story was as fulfilling as I had hoped.

Philbrick does an excellent job providing the reader/listener with all the history of how Benedict Arnold came to be, and does a pretty good job explaining the backstory on how he turned on his country and why, but he does so in such a (I thought) dull way, that I never really sat on the edge of my seat waiting for the next turn of events. The story just wasn't very exciting.

Don't take my word for it, try it for yourself, and maybe you'll have a different/better take. I just hope his next book will keep my attention.

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

The Other Side of a Forgotten Hero

What did you love best about Valiant Ambition?

The book dispels the kneejerk reaction posed by the name: Benedict Arnold

What was one of the most memorable moments of Valiant Ambition?

The battle and maneuvering at Lake Champlain should have won Arnold lasting admiration

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Arnold's triumph over adversity becomes a metaphor for valor. No promotion, bankrupt, outmaneuvered, far from home, mis-guided by early Washington...he fought on with brilliance.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

In need of a part 2...

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Yes. This book provides an excellent overview of the Revolution from the viewpoints of Washington and Arnold. Additionally, Philbrick does a great job of placing Arnold's treason into perspective and helping the reader understand why such a distinguished hero would betray his country. That being said, the book has one glaring problem...

Do you think Valiant Ambition needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

This book is in desperate need of a follow up. The build up to Arnold's treason is detailed yet readable. However, once Arnold flees to New York, the book abruptly ends with John Andre's execution and Nathaniel Greene's assignment to the southern theater of the war. Nothing is said of Arnold's career in the British Army or his life after the Revolution ends or how he is viewed by the British (other than Henry Clinton). In short, the ending is anti-climactic at best and so I can only give the book 3 stars.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Benedict Arnold a complex and flawed character.

Benedict Arnold was a traitor but also a man who initially fought bravely and gallantly for America. He was arrogant and self-serving but was initially willing to risk his life for his country and the men he led. The book simply ended with his defection and a brief mention of a bloody battle. Personally I would have liked more details on his eventual move to England and what became of his wife and two boys. The downside for me was the narration by Scott Brick.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Solid research well presented

Of course Philbrick wrote a well researched, honest book about the personalities and events of the American Rev War, that's why my copy was confiscated by a former re-enactor and I bought myself an Audible copy. Originally, I won a hardcover through Goodreads Giveaways.
As expected, it is also well written and can be assimilated and understood by most. Usually, there is little time spent on the motivations of turncoats, but this book rectifies that in the case of Arnold. Obviously, I consider it a very worthwhile read, and do not hesitate to recommend it.
The audio is narrated by Scott Brick, who is well known for his excellent narrations.

1 person found this helpful