by Laurie Halse Anderson
First sentence: “‘Can you walk?’ someone asked me.
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I’m not sure how you are, but I really shouldn’t read winter books in the dead of winter. It’s too depressing.
Granted, this book, the sequel to Chains, isn’t supposed to be lighthearted fluff. It picks up several months after (spoiler, sorry) Isabel and Curzon escape. They had wandered around a bit, trying to get some money, and squabbling about whether or not to head south to rescue Isabel’s sister Rose. That led to a split between the two, something which Curzon thought he wouldn’t mind. However, through a couple of accidental encounters, Curzon’s ended up in the Continental Army. Again. He signs on to save his skin just as the army’s heading into winter encampment at (dead giveaway because of the title, here) Valley Forge. Anderson spends some time making sure that her readers know just what the conditions of Valley Forge were (not good is an understatement), but this is historical fiction, not non-fiction. The story is Curzon’s and we follow his struggles to get accepted at camp as an African American. He registers as a free man (even though he’s not, technically), and yet there are prejudices and obstacles to overcome even among his friends.
Then his old master shows up and decides that Curzon isn’t a free man. Which means that Curzon has to figure out how to escape all over again.
This book came with expectations, because it’s Anderson’s work and because I adored Chains. I’m not sure it lived up to them, however. Perhaps because it’s been too long since I’ve read Chains. Perhaps because, as I mentioned before, it’s winter, and reading a story about soldiers freezing in the snow just doesn’t help my already glum mood. But it just didn’t grab my attention the came way that Chains did. It’s a good story and Curzon’s an interesting enough main character, and once I picked it up, I did enjoy what I was reading. Anderson does the history justice, and more so: she paints a picture of the situation that’s can’t be found in the history books. The story doesn’t clip along as fast as I remember Chains doing, but it managed okay. However, in the end, I felt it was missing that something to keep me turning the pages, to draw me to the book in between readings.
That said, I’m quite curious to see what happens in the next book.