Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review of Forge (Seeds of America) by Laurie Halse Anderson

Antheneum Books for
Young Readers
Forge (Seeds of America)
by Laurie Halse Anderson
4 Stars

A soldier’s life is grim, and it was even more so during the Revolutionary War. Often supplies were scarce, conditions were harsh, and death and disease were no strangers. Those who volunteered for this life at least had the pride in knowing that they were among the few and brave who stepped up to fight for their right to exist as a free country.  But what if their service was not by choice? How much worse might the suffering be?

Curzon is one such soldier—originally pressed into service by his owner in exchange for freedom—who now faces a second enlistment through no fault of his own. Those who have read the first book in the Seeds of America series, Chains, may remember the Patriot slave-boy Curzon, friend of the main character, Isabel. This installment is told in Curzon’s point of view, and brings new insights into this historical period and into Curzon’s strong character. And where has Isabel gone? Will Curzon ever see her again?

The setting of Valley Forge plays a huge part in this story. Through Curzon’s resilient eyes, the reader sees the brutal, freezing conditions that soldiers lived in during the course of one winter. Deprived of clothing, food, and even shelter, many soldiers died of the cold, starvation or disease, while officers lived in nearby housing with warm clothing and plenty of food.  It’s amazing the soldiers had enough discipline and respect not to mutiny! And yet, through Curzon, the reader begins to wonder which is worse, to live every day with starvation and pain yet live free, or to have plenty of food, warm clothing and safe conditions in exchange for being treated as a possession?  The irony of enslaved soldiers fighting for freedom is dumbfounding. The first portion of the novel does not have a great deal of action, yet reading about the lives of the individual soldiers, learning about their personalities, and seeing how they change is very satisfying and entertaining. Additionally, the historical documents and letters peppered throughout the story add depth and relevance to each character’s tale.  The second half of the novel is also quite satisfying as Curzon schemes against his former master and seeks a means of escape. Most fulfilling is the ironic ending that will make readers either applaud or chuckle—either way, its’ an ending that will satisfy and entertain. This story is so good, readers reluctant to read historical fiction won’t flinch they’ll be so sucked into the narrative. I’m excited to read book three in the series, which is rumored to be entitled Ashes, and which is scheduled come out in Februray of 2013.

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