. . . . . . PEACHTREE BOOK BLOG TOUR
by Krista Russell
Back Cover: The year is 1739 and Jem has escaped his cruel master and gone south—to Fort Mose, near St. Augustine, where the Spanish have promised freedom to escaped slaves in exchange for their loyalty and commitment to help fight the English
Jem dreams of joining the militia, but he’s in the custody of Phaedra, a difficult and angry woman who won’t let him. He thought he was free, the thought he was a man—but Phaedra controls his every move.
When rumors of strange happenings in the nearby forest make some fear black magic or English spies, Jem sees the chance for adventure and independence. He has conjure beads to protect him. But will they be enough?
Opening: Spanish Florida, October 13, 1739: The fort was eerily quiet. Shadows hung like phantoms in the dark reaches of the yard. Most of the militia had gone to the Castillo de San Marco, the large fortress in St. Augustine. A small group sat around the fire. Big Sunday, who’d been one of the first to escape to Florida, had taken his usual place at the center of the gathering.
About the Story: Jem escapes his cruel master and his “Aunt Winnie” gives his custody over to Phaedra, whom she forced Jem into promising he would obey. Phaedra is a taskmaster and keeps a close eye on Jem. Jem takes every opportunity to escapes her. One day he runs into the forest, finds an abandoned baby owl, and adopts it. He names the creature Omen. When Jem does not closely watch the baby owl, it gets into all sorts of trouble. Phaedra would much prefer to eat the owl, as food is close to nonresistance. Jem offers Omen the freedom he does not enjoy and lets it annoy Phaedra at every turn.
The Spanish are not holding up their end of the deal and food is getting scarce. Jem tries to help by fishing and asks the group leader’s son, Indian Domingo to teach his how. The two young boys head to the river and are eventually picked up by two Englishmen and taken straight to the Spanish leader at St. Augustine. There, Jem and Domingo that the two Englishmen are in cahoots with the crocked Governor in exchange for some of the rice that should be going to Fort Moses.
What I Thought: The Other Side of Free is the first book from a publisher that I could not finish. The story is good, but for me it dragged on too long when it could have said the same with fewer words. I like Jem’s story but the fishing and hunting stories are nearly the same: both times Jem is out with Domingo, failing at catching, wants to leave when things get iffy—do not blame Jem, here—and the threat of enemy capture becomes real. Jem seems to have no skills. What was he doing for his master when he was a slave? Phaedra sees Jem as worthless because he knows nothing, or nothing of value, because he is not good at anything, which seems odd to me. Jem appears to be the camp scapegoat.
The people at Fort Moses have not had food for weeks that Spain had promised in exchange for their loyalty and help. What they grow must go to the Spanish enclave. When Jem leans how crooked the Governor is, the camp will not listen to him. They would rather give Jem the silent treatment than hear what happened. In the end, I thought the story was too long and too convoluted. Too much goes on that makes no sense to the story. The man in charge of the camp—on the Spanish side—asks to marry Phaedra, but when she refuses he angrily vows to get even with her and the camp, but then does nothing. What was the point of this scene, comic relief?
Kids that enjoy historical fiction might enjoy this, but I think the story is for older kids, teens and adults, not the middle grade ages of 8 to 12.
by Krista Russell website
Released September, 2013
Ages 8 and up
© 2013 by Peachtree Publishers, use with permission
Text copyright © 2013 by Krista Russell
PEACHTREE BOOK BLOG TOUR
p style=”text-align:center;”>The Other Side of Free
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