Forge Summary

Laurie Halse Anderson


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Forge Summary

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Forge is the second novel in the Seeds of America Trilogy, a historical novel series by Laurie Halse Anderson. Geared towards middle-grade readers, the trilogy focuses on the story of Isabel, a 13-year-old African-American slave as she fights for her freedom and that of her younger sister as the events of the American Revolution rage around them. Praised for its historical accuracy and exploring themes of family, race relations in colonial America, and the intersection of major historical events with the lives of its historical characters, the series explores lesser-known moments in the era and incorporates actual quotes and documents from the period. These include the Declaration of Independence and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. The first book in the series, Chains, was a National Book Award finalist in 2008.

Forge begins where the first in the series, Chains left off, with Isabel having joined up with fellow runaway slave Curzon to be a spy for the Revolutionaries. However, in the second book in the series, the role of protagonist shifts from Isabel to Curzon as the duo have escaped slavery but are now forced to avoid detection and survive winter in the harsh conditions of Valley Forge. Curzon is now a soldier, and his relationship with Isabel is tense in the aftermath of their escape. Isabel runs off again to try to find her sister, while Curzon enlists in the Colonial army after finding himself in the middle of the Battle of Saratoga. While Curzon is aware of the irony of a slave fighting for the freedom of others, he soon finds a compatriot in fellow soldier Eben. While the two have many spirited debates about America’s cause, Curzon is a firm believer in all people’s right to be free, while Eben is less enlightened.

The army soon arrives at the winter encampment in Valley Forge, and both white and black soldiers are unprepared for what they find there. Close to twelve thousand soldiers are stationed there without barracks, in the bitter cold, with meager rations. This section of the book is bookended by desperate reports from George Washington to the Continental Congress, pleading for additional supplies for his army. While the soldiers wait, they are forced to subsist on nothing but emergency rations of Firecake, a mix of flour and water that Curzon says tastes like ash and water and is hard enough to break teeth. Despite this, the men maintain their sense of humor and are bonded together in their common cause.

Curzon’s task is made harder by the fact that his fellow soldiers don’t know he is an escaped slave, and he is haunted by wondering what’s become of Isabel. They are brought back together at Valley Forge later in the book. As George Washington and his ally Baron von Steuben attempt to turn the ragtag group of soldiers into a strong and united army, Curzon’s place in the army is jeopardized when his old master, Bellingham arrives at the camp and recognizes Curzon, hauling him into court to reclaim him as a slave. Once Curzon is pulled back to his old life as a slave, he finds that Bellingham has captured Isabel, as well. He now keeps the strong, determined girl with an iron collar around his neck to keep her from escaping. Curzon wants nothing more than to escape with Isabel by his side, but he has to convince her that he’s going to help her find her sister and will remain loyal to her.

However, many obstacles stand in the way of their escape, Bellingham continues to treat them cruelly, and they are both haunted by the past that they shared in Chains. Curzon has survived a full winter as a soldier in Valley Forge, and that has hardened him, allowing them to outwit Bellingham and go on the run again. The book ends with the two friends, their bond stronger than ever now, on the search for Isabel’s sister Ruth. Forge ends on a cliffhanger, to be continued in the third book in the series, Ashes, which was released on October 4th, 2016.

Laurie Halse Anderson is a prolific author of children’s and young adult fiction, best known for her 1999 young adult novel Speak, an unflinching look at the aftermath of a teenage girl’s sexual assault which was a finalist for the National Book Award and has been translated into sixteen languages. It was followed by the critically acclaimed Catalyst, which takes place in the same high school as Speak but focuses on different characters. In addition to the Seeds of America series and Fever 1793, her other Revolution-era novel, she is the author of over twenty children’s books, including the popular Vet Volunteers series, focusing on children who rescue animals. Her books, especially Speak and her historical novels, are frequently used as assigned reading in schools across the country. In 2009, Laurie Halse Anderson was awarded the ALA Margaret A. Edwards award for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.