I picked Chains up on a whim not knowing much about it. I'd read one of Anderson's other books (Speak) and really enjoyed it. This story is set in a wildly different era than Speak, but it still has some intriguingly similar traits. Chains drops us into the American colonies in 1776 and gives us a story from the point of view of a young slave girl.
The writing is fresh and simple, yet also vibrant, descriptive and detailed. Part of me was expecting stylized writing and dialog similar to Mark Twain's treatment. While this writing doesn't have elements of negro/slave dialog, it does have other significant elements that lend to its realism. It's very evident that the author did a lot of research for this book. There are many simple little details that just make the scenes and events absolutely real. She also includes interesting historical epigraphs with each chapter that help set the tone.
The story is fairly simple and easy to follow but what makes it great is the tension and emotion of the characters...Isabel in particular. We're taken inside the head of a very thoughtful, very emotional slave girl. Her life is turned on its head a number of times and she finds herself forced into bad situations again and again. Her internal debates really invoke a lot of thought about the nature of life in the late 1800s both in America and in the British Empire. I found myself very sympathetic to her dilemma and curious to see how (or even IF) she would be able to find some sort of happy resolution through all of her trials.
This was a very quick read but well worth the time. The only down side was that I reached the end of the book only to find that it is part of a series which is currently in-process. Fortunately, the second book Forge is about to be released, so I can hopefully find out what happens to her.
For anybody with an interest in American history, slavery, or just a fun youthful adventure, I can recommend this. If you're a big history buff, you may be discouraged at the lighter weight, but hopefully you'll find enough there to be entertained.
4 out of 5 stars
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