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Cover image for Ashes

First edition.
New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, [2016]
Physical Description:
298 pages : map ; 22 cm
Series title(s):
General Note:
A Caitly Dlouby Book.

Sequel to: Forge.
"As the Revolutionary War rages on, Isabel and Curzon 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"-- Provided by publisher.
Reading Level:
Ages 10-14.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.6 11.0 184168.
Conference Subject:


Call Number
TEEN Anderson, L.
TEEN Anderson, L.
TEEN Anderson, L.
TEEN Anderson, L.

On Order



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.

Author Notes

Laurie Halse Anderson was born in Potsdam, New York on October 23, 1961. She received a B.S.L.L. in Languages and Linguistics from Georgetown University in 1984. Before becoming a full-time author, she worked as a freelance reporter. Her first book, Ndito Runs, was published in 1996. She has written numerous books for children including Turkey Pox, No Time for Mother's Day, Fever 1793, Speak, Catalyst, Independent Dames: What You Never Knew about the Women and Girls of the American Revolution, Chains and The Impossible Knife of Memory. She also created the Wild at Heart series, which was originally published by American Girl but is now called the Vet Volunteers series and is published by Penguin Books for Young Readers.

Anderson has been nominated and won multiple honorary awards for her literary work. For the masterpiece Speak, Anderson won the Printz Honor Book Award, a National Book Award nomination, Golden Kite award, the Edgar Allan Poe Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her book Fever 1793 won the American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults selection and the Junior Library Guild selection. In 2008, Chains was selected for the National Book Award Finalist and in 2009 was awarded for its Historical Fiction the Scott O'Dell Award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-As in Chains and Forge (the previous volumes in the trilogy), each chapter in Ashes is dated and starts with a quote from a figure in the American Revolution. Isabel and Curzon have traveled more than 1,000 miles and endured varmints, vexations, and near-deadly privations as they searched for Ruth, Isabel's younger sister. Now they are but a stone's throw away in South Carolina, but they are in particular danger as targets for slave catchers. Isabel pins her hopes on a happy reunion and a quick retreat to Rhode Island, where they hope to live free. Isabel's authentic vocabulary, from "remembery" and "Huzzah!" to "that fool slubberdegullion," colorfully transports listeners to 1780s sites such as Virginia's Williamsburg and Yorktown. Siiri Scott chooses a low pitch for Isabel, which works well overall. Occasionally Ruth's friend Aberdeen and Curzon come in with slightly higher tones, but listeners are likely to be so enthralled by the story that such small matters will not register. VERDICT The trilogy conclusion, like the previous installments, is a must-purchase for middle school libraries. It has abundant curricular ties-ins and is enjoyable in its own right for any fan of strong heroines and historical fiction.-Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Picking up in June 1781, three years after Forge (2010), this thrilling conclusion to Anderson's Seeds of America trilogy finds former slaves Isobel and Curzon finally locating Isobel's younger sister, Ruth, on a South Carolina plantation. The reunion is not a happy one: while Ruth, now 12, has been cared for by fellow slaves on the plantation, she rebuffs Isobel. Curzon and Isobel are also at odds over his desire to enlist in the fight for independence. Despite the discord, the three head north-joined by Aberdeen, an escaped slave from the plantation-stopping in Williamsburg, Va., where patriots are preparing for an assault on Yorktown. As in the previous two books, Anderson's vividly detailed writing immerses readers in the hardships of her heroes' travels and the harsh realities of war. Isobel's eventual reconciliation with Ruth, her growing understanding of Curzon's need to fight, and her recognition of the true feelings between them all work to guide the story to an emotionally satisfying conclusion. It's a gripping finish to an epic journey that speaks resoundingly to the human capacity to persevere. Ages 10-14. Agent: Amy Berkower, Writers House. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Its been five long years since Isabels younger sister, Ruth, was stolen away by hated slave owner Madam Lockton (Chains, rev. 11/08), but as Isabel continues her fraught journey south in June 1781 with her companion, Curzon, she remains as determined as ever to find and rescue her sister. On a semi-abandoned South Carolina plantation, they do find Ruth, but she has made a home there and is aloof and even hostile to Isabel. This attitude, coupled with Ruths slight mental impairment, makes their continuing escape (as Isabel, Curzon, and Ruth flee the plantation when the white overseer returns) even more perilous. Heading north, they are inexorably drawn toward Yorktown, setting of the climactic battle of the American Revolution. Anderson takes full advantage of unfolding history to weave a plethora of historical detail into the narrative, while her characters confront the relative merits of the American and British positions in relation to the status of African Americans. Isabel comes to realize that freedom would not be handed to us like a gift. Freedom had to be fought for and taken. By questioning the fundamental principles upon which this nation was founded, the Seeds of America trilogy does for middle grade readers what M. T. Andersons Octavian Nothing books (rev. 9/06 and 9/08) do for young adult readers. And amidst the moral quagmire of colonial-American racial politics, Isabel and Curzon resolve the romantic tension that has simmered throughout the series and forge a hopeful, clear-eyed vision of their shared future. jonathan hunt (c) Copyright 2016. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Co-protagonists Isabel and Curzon (Chains, 2008, and Forge, 2010) return in this long-awaited third and final volume in Anderson's award-winning Seeds of America trilogy. The year is now 1781, and the two teenage fugitives are 12 miles from Charleston, South Carolina, in search of Isabel's younger sister, Ruth, stolen away from her many years before. To Isabel's great joy, find her they do, but, inexplicably, Ruth refuses to return Isabel's affection, remaining cold and distant, even when the three, along with farm-boy Aberdeen, set off to walk to Rhode Island and freedom. Will they reach their destination? Perhaps, but in the meantime, they arrive in Williamsburg, Virginia, where, to Isabel's great distress, Curzon reenlists in the Continental Army. The action then moves to the siege of Yorktown, even as Isabel and Curzon's often stormy relationship continues to evolve. But to what end? The plot-rich text makes for compelling reading, and the well-developed characters continue to invite reader empathy. Anderson demonstrates a particular talent for verisimilitude, bringing history to compelling life while she continues to develop her theme of the quest for liberty and the cruel irony that, during a war for freedom, there should remain slavery. Yes, readers, it was worth the wait. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Chains and Forge are considered highlights of an author career packed with highlights, and this final installment comes with a book tour, floor displays, and more.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2016 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

IF SUCCESS IS its own cage, Laurie Halse Anderson keeps finding ways to wriggle free. Other authors might have spun a whole career out of "Speak," that classic affidavit of the high school outlier, or at least mined its laughing-through-tears vein to depletion. Anderson, without ever slighting her original reader base, has continually found other places she wants to be. The results have included "Vet Volunteers," a series of animal-clinic mysteries aimed at kids, and more ambitiously, "Seeds of America," a trilogy of middle-grade historical novels set in the throes of the Revolutionary War. "Ashes," the final volume in that trilogy, confirms that Anderson's authorial restlessness has yielded an enduring new set of characters: embattled teenage slaves, condemned to rove up and down the Eastern Seaboard in search of family and freedom - and always just one step ahead of their pursuers. "Ashes" is, in no particular order, a war story, a romance, a coming-of-age tale (several times over) and - here is where things get edgy - a challenge thrown down by a white American writer to white American pieties. It's a book that asks: What good is a revolution that stops halfway? This all sounds perilously close to high-mindedness, so maybe now is the time to add that "Ashes" is a thumping good read. A rattlesnake pops up at the end of the first chapter, and over the ensuing 250-plus pages, the story's pulse rarely slackens. None of which would matter so much if Anderson hadn't also given us a heroine for all seasons in Isabel, the indomitable and hardened refugee who, through all her tribulation, refuses to submit her spirit to shackles. When we first reconnect with her, she has been toiling for many years and many more miles - from New York City to Valley Forge to the Carolina swamps - to track down her beloved epileptic younger sister, Ruth, shipped off to a Charleston plantation. Ruth is at last found but is not so glad to be found as Isabel had hoped, and the sisters' future course is by no means clear. The upheavals of war have left America's slaves ("stolen people," Isabel calls them) in a state of uneasy autonomy. "Some were searching for kin, like us. Others were seeking a safe spot of ground they could call their own....All of us who wandered thus owned only the clothes on our backs. We relied on our wits to keep us fed. We traded information like coin." Through this treacherous and shifting landscape, Isabel and her party wend their way north, only to be stopped once again by the war - in this case, the extended siege of Yorktown. Pinned down on yet another battlefront, Isabel must grapple with where her political allegiances lie and, at long last, gauge her true feelings for Curzon, her longtime companion in adventure and woe. "Ashes" isn't the most powerful book in Anderson's trilogy. It contains no moment quite so harrowing as Isabel's branding in the first volume, nor any characters quite so diabolical as the loyalist Mrs. Lockton or the patriot Bellingham. As for the climactic battle, Isabel is the first to acknowledge it's not a guns-blazing showdown but a campaign of attrition. In this, it bears some resemblance to Anderson's work, for the cumulative impact of "Ashes" derives, at least in part, from our having followed these characters through such a long and weary pilgrimage. A third of Isabel's life has been spent under war's shadow, and any redemptive moments become all the sweeter for being so hard-won. Beneath the sweetness, though, lurks an unreconcilable bitterness. Isabel and Curzon, in the midst of calling each other names like "muzzy-headed blatherskite" and "vexatious cabbagehead," argue over which army has their true interests at heart. Curzon, in thrall to the rebel cause, harkens to the dream of "a nation built on freedoms." Isabel reminds him that they have been enslaved by patriots and loyalists alike and that "neither side was talking about freedom for people who looked like us." In perhaps the book's most stirring moment, she declares: "I am my own army. My feet and legs, my hands, arms and back, those are my soldiers." "Ashes" ends on a note of precarious hope, but Anderson allows the inherent contradictions of the American Revolution to linger unresolved. She pays her young readers the ultimate compliment of not writing down to them, of letting them see how bitter and bloody - and incomplete - a nation's birth can be. LOUIS BAYARD is the author, most recently, of the middle-grade novel "Lucky Strikes."