Monday, January 10, 2011
Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
Curzon, a runaway slave, finds himself part of the Continental army after saving a sergeant's son's life. Curzon claims to be a freed slave, and for a time finds some happiness as part of the army, befriending many. When Curzon's old master discovers him, he takes him back to be a slave, and Curzon discovers that Isabel, the girl who helped him escape, has also been recaptured. Not only that, but Isabel is forced to wear an iron collar around her neck to prevent her from running. Curzon cannot leave without Isabel, but Curzon knows he can never go back to being a slave.
Forge is the sequel to Chains, and there will be a third volume coming out as well, called Ashes. I enjoyed Chains for several reasons. First, it was really good, so there was that. Second, it was about slavery during the Revolutionary War. Most historical fiction about slavery revolves around the Civil War. Another distinguishing characteristic is that it's taking place in the East, Boston and New York (and in Forge, Philadelphia), rather than the South. There aren't that many books about slavery in the East. So I found that fascinating. It also looked at the British army, and the promise of freedom to slaves who joined them. Forge has taught me that the American Revolution was the last war where black and white Americans served in integrated units until the Korean War. That would be 1950, people. Incredible.
So all that was to say I really enjoyed Chains and was looking forward to reading Forge. It did not disappoint. Excellent historical fiction. Exciting and engaging while also giving an in-depth look at that terrible winter at Valley Forge where so many soldiers died from cold, starvation and disease.
There's a thought-provoking conversation between Curzon and Ebenezer, the boy whose life he saves and who becomes his close friend. Curzon asks him what the difference is between fighting for independence from the British, and slaves wanting to be free. The colonists are breaking laws and disobeying the British because they feel they are treated wrong. Why is it different with slavery? Ebenezer does not understand. "...I'd be happy for the food and clothes and good care my master gave me. I would know that God wanted me to be in bondage and I would not question His will." The friendship ends after this.
So another great book from Laurie Halse Anderson. Read it!