Saturday, October 8, 2011

Review: Forge

Laurie Halse Anderson
After having earned his freedom fighting in the Revolutionary War, slave-turned-soldier Curzon must enlist in the war once again because despite the freedom he's earned, his lack of papers makes him an escaped slave instead of a freed one. As he deals with the harsh conditions at Valley Forge, he tries not to dwell on Isabel, whose whereabouts are unknown. He focuses on America's fight for freedom even as his own freedom is not yet secure.

Not having read the first in this series, Chains, I started Forge playing catch-up. The book works as a stand-alone, but I suspect it would work a lot better as a sequel. Historical fiction is a hard sell with me and the Revolutionary War period is one that especially tends to bore me for some reason, so it took quite a while for me to find my footing in this book. Though Curzon and the secondary characters (especially Eben, who I loved) is written well the fact that I came into the story partway through was definitely a stumbling block I don't suggest.

This is the first historical book I've read by Laurie Halse Anderson, but I'm happy to report that her historical writing skills are every bit as good as her contemporary writing skills. Though there were points when the story seemed to drag on, I have a feeling that's more my fault than the books and about halfway in I was hooked. The focus on slaves in the war - the fight for the freedom of a country versus the freedom of a people - is an incredibly interesting subject and well-done here as Curzon's opinions on the matter don't always match up with the opinions of those he cares about (Eben and Isabel, for instance). The relationships between the characters, most notably Curzon and his fellow soldiers, is one of the strongest points of the novel. It's easy to get caught up in these characters and their lives. The perspective of an escaped slave also brings a new POV to a part of America's history that often seems boring and rote, especially to those readers (like myself) who have mostly learned about the war from textbooks.

This is the first book to get me interested in the Revolutionary War. With well-crafted characters, an interesting subject matter, and rich historical detail that adds to the story I definitely recommend it to historical fiction fans as well as readers who are a bit more lukewarm about the genre.


  1. interesting thoughts, I really enjoyed Chains although like you I tend to avoid historical fiction... which is probably why I still haven't picked up this sequel yet! it sounds it lives up to the first one though and I'm pleased it works well as a standalone since I sometimes forget things by the time I read the second book in a series.

  2. I have enjoyed all the Laurie Halse Anderson books that I've read, including Fever 1793. I have yet to read Chains or Forge, but have heard good things about it

  3. I've read a few of Anderson's contemporary novels, but I haven't read her historical books yet. I'd like to, though.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

  4. Zoë
    I do wish I'd read Chains first, but with it being Cybils reading I really didn't have time. This is definitely a great book though and I may even read the final installment (or at least, I think it's the final one), ASHES, when it comes out.

    Helen's Book Blog
    It's definitely a good one to read.

    Medeia Sharif
    I was a little surprised that she's SO GOOD at historical; I thought that usually it seems authors really shine at one or the other (contemp or history), but not both. LH Anderson proved me wrong on that though. :)

  5. The riveting novel Forge was written by the talented author Laurie Halse Anderson. Out of all the books I have read by her. My favorite part of the book would have to be when Isabel dresses in breeches for disguise. She did this all to runaway with Curzon in the march to York to escape slavery. This part of the story is my favorite because the plot is resolved, they are happy runaways, and they have each other company for the rest of the duration of the Revolutionary War.