Forge Book Review

Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

After escaping a British prison in New York City with the help of his good friend Isabelle, Curzon knows they must head somewhere where they will be safe. When Isabelle refuses to head north though, wanting to find her sister in South Carolina, Curzon leaves her. Through a series of mishaps and lies, Curzon ends up enlisting in the Revolutionary army at Valley Forge until the end of the war. But life in Valley Forge is very difficult with men starving, dying from want of clothes and blankets, and a collection illnesses that only come from poor conditions. Curzon is willing to live under the army's yoke, but when his old master comes back into his life, Curzon must face the reality of being a black man in 1777.

I'll admit right now that I did not realize this was a sequel to Chains. As I have not read the aforementioned book, I was obviously a little confused at the beginning of Forge. Anderson does not feel the need (nor should she) to go back and explain what happened in the previous book nor who Isabelle is to Curzon. The beginning moved very quickly, so quickly in fact that I wasn't entirely sure what had happened. Curzon is out of prison and then he is wandering the woods after some kind of fight with Isabelle. There are some scenes that feel like flashbacks, but turn out to be in the present. Then we are at Valley Forge.

Here's the thing about Valley Forge, if you remember your Revolutionary War history...nothing much happened there. It was a bit cold and people died to be sure, mostly from being ill-equipped to survive the winter, but no wars were fought. I found the first half of the book to be rather ponderous since nothing terribly plot worthy happens while Curzon is living with his regiment. There is, of course, a bullying Sergeant, but there are always those in these types of books so it didn't exactly feel extraordinary.

Enter Bellingham, Curzon's former master. This is where the book takes a drastic turn and feels like a completely different book and frankly it felt a little forced. The reintroduction of Isabelle felt a little to convenient. Could there not have been some other girl for Curzon to connect with? Did it have to be Isabelle? Even the romance felt strange and forced, for if Curzon truly loved her, would he have left her?

The book itself is a fine example of historical fiction and I believe young readers will learn a lot from it, as long as they can slog through the first half.


Anonymous said...

Actually, Curzon did not leave Isabelle. Isabelle was angry with him for not wanting to go to Charleston to find her sister, and she took all of their money and left him. As it turns out later in the book, when they are both Bellingham's slaves, Isabelle says that she came back for Curzon because she felt bad that she had left him with no money, but he was already gone. Just saying... :)