Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Given that this is the second in a trilogy, the book doesn't really suffer from "middle child" syndrome: the backstory is filled in in drips and drabs (but you could get by without having read Chains) and the ending is semi-cliffhangery, so you could use your imagination to plot Isabel and Curzon's future without feeling compelled to buy Ashes.
The horrors of serving in, not fighting in, an army take up the majority of the book: the cold, hunger, lack of shelter and clothing, etc. that Curzon's company experiences is remarkably detailed. I was at BookFest this year where Ms. Anderson described, in somewhat painful detail, her research into bloody footprints and firecake, among other 'primary sources'. I think that it is this part that will attract the most readers, because the slavery story - while compelling - isn't really news.
That's not to diminish the betrayal Curzon feels when his former(? depending on your point of view) master grabs him, or the fury he has when it's clear that "freedom" they're fighting for is for whites, not everyone. That there was slavery in the North will surprise readers who think that states like Massachusetts and New York were always free states, and that slaves preferred to fight for the British (who promised their freedom) will also surprise readers.
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