OK, I admit it. This one took a loooooooong time to get into. In fact, I started the novel, then put it down and left it for a few months. Forge is the sequel to the novel, Chains, with a major shift in perspective. Isabel is our main companion throughout the first novel, but is replaced by her fellow escaped slave, Curzon, as lead narrator for the second novel. Perhaps it was because I really wanted to know what happened to Isabel and I really didn’t care about Curzon at the end of the first book that caused me to take a long time to invest in the story…whatever the cause, I’m glad I came back to the book and finished it.
Curzon’s path diverges from Isabel before the start of the novel. He finds himself taken in by-and eventually accepted by-a rather rag-tag group of soldiers that are suffering through the winter at Valley Forge. His early trials in the book may put off younger female readers, but it is well worth pushing through to get to the meat of the story. Isabel does re-enter the novel later, but by then I was fully invested in Curzon’s story.
The majority of story takes place in Valley Forge during a devastating winter for the rebel soldiers. Every day is a struggle to survive the weather and meager rations. For Curzon, he also has the added danger of not having any papers to prove he is actually free. The descriptions of camp life were realistic enough to give the reader a clear picture of the misery without wallowing in sordid details of the pestilence and death that surrounded their every waking moment.
In my opinion, the author’s ability to give the reader a clear picture of how tragic the situation was for these men (just as she did with Isabel’s story in Chains) without overly graphic detail of every negative thing sets it apart from many of the current dystopian offerings. Don’t get me wrong, some of the details are graphic and will make the reader uncomfortable, BUT I didn’t find the details to be unnecessary. The information that is provided inspires some real thought about what life must have been like for those men fighting for the independence of our nation-and for those whose independence was not guaranteed by a military victory.
As in the first book, there are some scenes of violence that are realistic considering the time period. Additionally, in this book there are a few references made to possible sexual abuse that Isabel may have suffered at the hands of those that bought and sold her between the end of Chains and the point where she reappears in Forge. Those references may be missed by younger readers, but will most likely raise some questions in older or more skilled readers. The third book in this series, Ashes, is set to debut in March of 2014. I, for one, cannot wait to read it.