Friday, May 9, 2014

Forge (Seeds of America #2) by Laurie Halse Anderson

Left hanging as to what happened to Isabel and Curzon in "Chains," book one of Seeds of America, the action continues to steamroll with Curzon finding himself in the middle of the British fighting the Patriots during the Revolutionary War. Isabel has run off tired of waiting for the two to go find Ruth after fleeing to freedom and Curzon is trying to find her. He gets lost and ends up saving the life of Eben a brawny boy his age with a big voice and big heart. A series of mishaps leads Curzon to enlisting and making friends with a troop of soldiers. Not everyone welcomes a black soldier, but throughout the course of trying to survive Valley Forge, they form a bond that goes beyond prejudices.

The author is fantastic with historical details making this better than your average historical novel. The character development of Curzon is terrific with Eben, but falls off some with Isabel. Her reaction to him was cooler than I expected and some of her actions didn't make sense. I kept waiting for more explanations regarding their fight but it never comes and as a result the romance seemed rushed. Eben and his fight with Curzon, for instance, was more interesting because it showed him having to face his prejudices and think about not going along with common opinion that was another human being owning a person based solely on the color of his or her skin.

When Curzon arrives at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777, the author captures the ill-prepared army and dire conditions the soldiers had to survive in during subzero temperatures. Lacking shoes, shelter and food, thousands of men died that winter. Curzon's descriptions of eating "firecakes" is unforgettable. Animals suffered as well. One chapter describes the supply wagon arriving and the horse dying shortly thereafter. And just like in "Chains," Halse Anderson captures the dilemma facing black soldiers such as Curzon who are lied to by masters or told they are free and then find they are not because the white man selfishly wants to enslave them for his own needs. Injustices abound and even moreso for Isabel that is forced to wear an iron collar.

The plot has some conveniences that seem contrived, but for the most part there is plenty of action and adventure. When Eben and Curzon fight, Curzon asks him if only white man can be free. Eben says of course not thinking of the free black men he grew up with at home. When Curzon asks if slaves can be free and Eben says of course not because they are owned by a master, Curzon says this is an unnatural law and compares it to the Patriots fighting against the British government and their unfair laws. Eben gets mad at him for the comparison and the two don't speak, but Curzon has planted the seed of equality in Eben who is a fair and just person. It is not surprising at the end when he has empathy for Curzon and changes his mind. Again this story ends on an exciting cliffhanger. Another winner by Hale Anderson.

4 Smileys

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