We were escaped slave, half frozen and exhausted. We needed to warm ourselves, sleep and eat. But above all, we had to stay hidden. The business of returning of selling runaways was profitable for both redcoats and rebels.
I tallied our advantages: A few coins. Food enough for a few meals. Disadvantages: No horse. No gun. No one to trust.
A large piece of ice floated down the river as the second truth crackled in me.
This freedom could kill us (p 8-9).
Forge is the sequel to the brilliant book Chains (read my review), and equal to its predecessor is scope and excellence. If you haven’t read Chains, do so immediately.
In Chains, Isabelle, a teenage slave girl, narrators her story. She and her younger sister Ruth are sold to wealthy, cruel Loyalists living in New York City. Isabelle turns spy for the rebels but soon learns their promises of freedom are insubstantial. Ruth is sold away and Isabelle is determined to find her. Isabelle escapes the city after freeing Curzon, a slave sold into soldiering for the rebel cause.
Forge continues the story with a new narrator, Curzon. We soon learn that Isabelle has broken with Curzon, sneaking off in the night, because she insists on traveling south to find her sister while Curzon plans for a safer route north to freedom.
Before too long, Curzon finds himself reenlisted as an American soldier. His thoughts constantly turn to Isabelle.
Forge has several meaning in this novel: (1) Curzon worked in a forge.
“I worked with a blacksmith,” I said, which was both true and believable. “Warmest job in the entire camp. I’ll wager you right now I’ll get to do it again. Blacksmith’s don’t want clumsy oafs helping them in the forge. They need skilled chaps like me (p 138).”
(2) Valley Forge, named for an iron forge on Valley Creek, was an American Revolution War winter camp (1777-17780). Curzon and his company make camp at Valley Forge with the American army. (Read more about Valley Forge at Wikipedia). Much of the story takes place at Valley Forge.
(3) This book is as much about the American Patriots attempting to forge a new nation, free from England’s rule, as it is about two young slaves fighting even harder to forge their own free futures.
The fellows had forged themselves into an army that was ready to march and take its country back (504).
(4) And of course, Isabelle and Curzon will fight their enslavement as long as they have breath in their bodies, finally forging their futures on their own terms.
“If our luck does not turn for the good on its own,” she said, “we’ll make it turn” (p 490).
This book incites many emotions: frustration, sadness, and several beautiful moments of fulfillment and sweetness. All of it unfolds beautifully and with a veracity that places the reader in chilly half-built barracks feeling hungry with only fire cakes to eat and unable to do anything about it. Anderson is a stellar writer and researcher and this book reflects it.
And what a completely satisfying ending! I suppose she could write another book, and I’d be first in line to read it, but I’m also completely happy to end the story with Forge.