Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: YA historical fiction
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from the public library
First line: “Can you walk?” someone asked me.
Spoiler alert: This review will not contain spoilers for Forge, but may give away some plot points to the first book in the series, Chains.
I absolutely loved Chains (my review) and was very excited to read Curzon and Isabel’s continuing story. What I didn’t expect was that I would love it even more, and that I would have to wait for the rest of their story in book three, Ashes, which doesn’t come out until October.
Forge differs from Chains in that it is told from Curzon’s point of view, rather than Isabel’s. The action begins a bit after the end of book one. Isabel and Curzon have had an argument and parted ways, and Curzon ends up becoming part of George Washington’s army, and spending the winter at Valley Forge. He knows he has earned his freedom, but has no papers to prove it, and lives in continual fear of being enslaved, wondering if he’ll ever see Isabel again.
These books are truly the best of historical fiction. They are billed as YA, but could be read and understood by middle grade readers as well – and will be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Anderson has taken a very familiar piece of American history – the American Revolution – and turned it upside down by telling the tale from the point of view of slaves. (Something that is also done very well by M.T. Anderson in his Octavian Nothing series.) The heartbreaking irony of the colonists fighting to earn their freedom from tyranny while keeping blacks as slaves is not to be avoided when viewing the war through Curzon’s eyes.
Curzon is a terrific character. He’s a fighter, quick-witted, full of hatred for slave masters and yet still able to befriend a fellow soldier who happens to be white. Curzon tells us his story, and through him, Halse does a terrific job of placing the reader right in the middle of the deprivations and horrors that were Valley Forge. While reading about that fateful winter, it is hard to imagine that the same army who starved and froze went on to rout the British.
While I liked Anderson’s contemporary YA novels Prom and Twisted, her talent really shines in this series of historical fiction. Highly recommended.