Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
Series: Chains. Bloomsbury, 2011. ISBN 978 1408803806.
(Ages 10+) Recommended. Historical. During the American War of Independence, one of the rallying battles, now remembered with pride, was the Battle of the Valley Forge. The harsh winter of 1773 saw Washington's piece meal army camped near Albany in New York State. Deserters, Indians, freed and escaped negroes, farmers, young men devoted to the cause, but all without proper discipline, munitions or food and clothing, were to be brought together under the stern command of General Nathaniel Greene. This piece of history is the backdrop to the continuing story of Isabel and Curzon, two negro slaves readers first met in Chains (2007).
They have now separated, and Curzon has joined the Continental Army at its camp, seeing first hand the mess the army is in all the while keeping a low profile in case he is recognised and recaptured. Through his eyes the daily life of the soldiers comes thrillingly to life. We see them scavenging for food, their meagre portions contrasted brilliantly with the excess of the officers. Forced to build their own wooden huts without nails and with only a minimum of equipment, they resort to stealing from local farmers, to augment the rice and flour they are given.
We see the bickering and politics which divides many of the camp, and the reality of daily life for these men, stuck in this freezing and miserable place, waiting possibly to be killed.
The tale of Curzon and Isabel is engrossing, and the background against which their story is told, enlightening in the extreme. The short chapters begin with a date and a quote form one of the commanders at the battle, and the story is then told from Curzon's perspective. The first book in this series, Chains, told their story as slaves, and the third, Ashes, will be eagerly waited for.