November 21, 2016
Monday Review: FORGE and ASHES by Laurie Halse Anderson
Book 1 was told from the point of view of the young woman Isabel, who was freed along with her sister when their master died, but then forced by his nephew back into slavery for an unkind Loyalist family. Book 2, Forge, takes place after the events of Chains, but follows the story of Isabel's friend Curzon, a runaway slave with forged papers who ends up joining up with the Patriot Army at Valley Forge. He finds meaning in his fight for freedom, he finds friendship in his fellow patriots (some of them), and, of course, he finds Isabel in his life again. She's trapped in a bad situation, and Curzon's avoiding his own past, which seems to insist on chasing after him…
Book 3, Ashes, returns to Isabel's viewpoint. Having fled Valley Forge, she and Curzon are headed to the South to find Isabel's intellectually disabled younger sister, Ruth, from whom she has been separated for a handful of long years. After rescuing Ruth from a plantation, along with her friend Aberdeen, the four make their way back north. To Isabel, the hardships encompass much more than just the journey; for one thing, Ruth is angry at her sister and doesn't want to accept her back into her life. For another, Curzon seems obsessed with his newfound ideas of freedom after serving with the Patriots. But it seems that the struggle for freedom is where their destiny indeed lies, and they all make their way to the front lines at Yorktown…
Beyond the value of these books as historical portrayals or as gripping tales of personal struggle, they also have amazing depth in terms of theme. The idea of freedom, of course, pervades this trilogy: what people are willing to do and to suffer for the sake of freedom; how much they are willing to fight for it; and who they are willing to trust to help them achieve it. The bonds of family, friendship, and love, both within and across color lines, are forged (there's that word again) and tested by the ravages of time and war—and prove themselves to be strongest.
Conclusion: By the time I finished reading this trilogy, I felt newly awed and inspired by the incredible stories of those unsung individuals from colonial America who were nevertheless such a huge part of our past history. The author tells their stories with sensitivity and honesty.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of my library's ebook collection. You can find FORGE and ASHES by Laurie Halse Anderson at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!