Ashes (The Seeds of America Trilogy)

Laurie Halse Anderson
Return to the American Revolution in this blistering conclusion to the trilogy that began with the bestselling National Book Award Finalist Chains and continued with Forge, which The New York Times called “a return not only to the colonial era but to historical accuracy.”As the Revolutionary War rages on, Isabel and Curzon have narrowly escaped Valley Forge—but their relief is short-lived. Before long they are reported as runaways, and the awful Bellingham is determined to track them down. With purpose and faith, Isabel and Curzon march on, fiercely determined to find Isabel’s little sister Ruth, who is enslaved in a Southern state—where bounty hunters are thick as flies. Heroism and heartbreak pave their path, but Isabel and Curzon won’t stop until they reach Ruth, and then freedom, in this grand finale to the acclaimed Seeds of America trilogy from Laurie Halse Anderson.


Reviewed: 2020-12-01

Laurie Halse Anderson captures a unique look at the revolutionary war by framing it through the eyes of runaway slaves. In this final book in the Seeds of America trilogy (Chains, Forge) she continues to look at the internal and external conflict that black Americans seeking freedom had to face. Isabel is the main character and narrator of the story. Throughout the novel she struggles with picking between the opposing sides. Her old friend and travel companion, Curzon, is very much a Patriot and seeks to join their efforts. Isabel tries to steer him away from this path as she searches for her long lost sister on her way north to freedom. When reunited with her sister, Ruth, she is resented because Ruth feels abandoned and betrayed. A little bit later, Curzon joins the Patriot army and Isabel must gain Ruth’s trust in order to keep her safe as the girls take whatever jobs they can on their way to freedom. Isabel is courageous and stubborn throughout the novel; she’s trying to care for Curzon, whom she worries may die due to his patriotism, as well as caring for the naive sister who resents her. The novel ends with the end of the war. Isabel and Curzon are romantically reunited and the two of them, along with Ruth, are optimistic about the future. The novel, however, still ends with intrigue, as the dangers of being black Americans in the eighteenth century are not forgotten by the main characters. Pride and nationality come up throughout the novel; Isabel and Curzon have many arguments about their duties as American colonialists. In the end, both characters struggle with having a national identity, being former slaves instead of citizens. There are also themes of connection throughout. Curzon and Isabel become very close because of their experiences. Isabel and Ruth have been separated since they were little girls, but still have a bond. Each character develops as they face new challenges. The plot moves quickly; the characters, on the run, are always at the edge of running into soldiers or suspicious civilians. The writing style is fast paced, narrating action in tense moments, but when things are slow, the author delves into details. “I walked toward the sunlight, then I ran, and then flew, fast as a bird who has finally caught sight of home after a dreadful-long flight.” At times the narrative focuses more on the details of the world around the characters as opposed to the experiences of the characters. Still, this is a fascinating and refreshing piece of historical fiction that emphasizes an interesting aspect of the Revolutionary War.

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