Tuesday 23 October 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of A Slave of the Shadows by Naomi Finley

#1 of a series

Fictional Saga
American South

“In 1850 Charleston, South Carolina, brutality and cruelty simmer just under the genteel surface of Southern society. In an era where ladies are considered mere property, beautiful and headstrong Willow Hendricks' father has filled her life with turmoil, secrets, and lies. Her father rules her life until she finds a kindred spirit in spunky, outspoken Whitney Barry, a northerner from Boston. Together these Charleston belles are driven to take control of their own lives--and they are plunged into fear and chaos in their quest to fight for the rights of slaves. Against all odds, these feisty women fight to secure freedom and equality for those made powerless and persecuted by a supposedly superior race. Only when they've lost it all do they find a new beginning.”

In a male society, the women are nothing more than chattels for bedding and breeding. Willow is the only daughter of a stern father who believes women belong in the home (or the bedroom). Not the kitchen – that is the place for the slaves, people of an even lesser status than the women. Willow, however, has different views, she wants attitudes to change, presumably initiated by her recent education abroad. She makes friends with the house slaves, delighting in their company and conversation, but should her father find out… and she is friends also with Whitney, the daughter of the neighbouring plantation owner, also recently returned from New York and like Willow, abhorrent of the vile treatment of plantation slaves.

Fair enough that these two young ladies were at odds with their fathers and the culture they were born into because of the ‘outsider’ education, but I do wonder if their views were perhaps a little too twenty-first century, not those of the Carolinas in the 1800s? Slavery to us, now, was a dreadful, dreadful thing, but to the colonists of the American South in the pre-civil war years? Attitudes then were very different. I am not condoning those attitudes, but should historical fiction reflect the period being written about or today’s views? The slaving years of American (and elsewhere!) history are sometimes hard for many of us to accept (although for as many racism is still a despicable tendency) and the author seems to have done her research well, while the narrative, once the initial slight slowness is overcome, moves at a steady pace.

There were quite a few anachronisms as well which did not sit well with the period. A thing which, I hope, the author will take on board with the next volume of the saga – I suggest a good editor to pick these up.

I wasn’t sure about the changes of perspective from one character to another, nor from first to third person. Did the idea work? For me, not really, as each change jolted me out of the story, which is a shame as it is a good story, and one worth reading, particularly for readers who enjoy this period and the Carolinas connection. Overall this was an entertaining story, with another in the series to look forward to.

© Mary Chapple

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