Jan's Reviews > Forge

Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
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Jan 18, 11

bookshelves: teenbooks, historical-fiction

A sequel to Chains, which was a National Book Award Finalist. Forge continues the story begun in Chains, but this time the novel is written from the point of view of Curzon, a slave owned by a man who has cast his lot with the Colonial rebellion against the British. At the conclusion of Chains, Curzon and Isabel have escaped their masters and run away together. But Isabel is intent on finding her sister, Ruth, and quarrels with Curzon, taking his money and running away again. Curzon falls in with the American rebels, fighting alongside white soldiers at the battle of Saratoga and enduring the hardships of the encampment at Valley Forge. But Curzon’s former master reappears and forces him back into slavery. Isabel also appears again at this point, having been captured by whites and purchased by Curzon’s master. Curzon and Isabel eventually find a way to escape again, and end up together marching with Curzon’s comrades from his unit towards…have to wait until the sequel.

I thought this book was as compelling as Chains, with a fascinating historical plot that is meticulously detailed and researched. Curzon and Isabel are compelling characters that draw you in emotionally as they struggle for freedom. I also really liked the way the novel addressed the issues of freedom and slavery and the irony of Curzon, a slave, fighting for independence for a new country that does not recognize his own right to liberty. The story is well-told and Anderson lavished a lot of attention on small details that bring the story to life. For example, on p. 157, Anderson describes how the washerwomen’s skirts leave trails in the snow. It is that kind of detail that gives this novel authenticity.

Anderson pays that kind of attentiveness to character development as well. In Chains, Curzon was just a boy caught up in the excitement of spying on the British for his master. In Forge, he is put to the test in battle and emerges a man. Isabel has also been tested by adversity, after being kidnapped and brutally treated and then forced to wear an iron collar to prevent her from running away. Her spirit is unbroken, but she has had to learn patience and endurance. The evil Colonial master, Bellingham, is a bit of a caricature in his wickedness at times, but he is not one-dimensional. We sense that although he is a brutal master, he still wants Curzon to respect him and want to serve him.

The plot is well constructed and moves along at a brisk pace. The device bringing Isabel and Curzon together again is contrived, but the story really demands it. I admit that I was thrilled when Isabel re-entered the story, as she was such a compelling narrator in Chains. The ending seemed a bit too pat, however, with Isabel, dressed as a boy, joining in the march with Curzon and his fellow soldiers. It was kind of “hi, ho, hi ho, it’s off to war we go.” But cliffhangers are never subtle.

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