4 out of 4 stars
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Separated from her mother at age 10, Lilly, a slave, is sent to live with a new master. Here, she finds comfort in observing and mimicking her new master’s children as they learn to play piano with their mother. Lilly is soon allowed to play on the piano herself when her owner’s wife dies, and she is left alone to take on the household duties herself. As the years go by, she becomes very talented at playing the piano when she is supposed to be working. She also begins to develop a friendship with her owner’s youngest son, James.
When James’s father discovers their friendship, he separates James and Lilly, placing his young son in a boarding school. Years later, when he returns to his plantation, James sees Lilly playing the piano and he swears that she will be punished for daring to touch her master’s piano. He talks his father into letting him take Lilly to what he says is a slave breeder. However, the slave breeder turns out to be a famous musician. The musician, William Werthington, is highly impressed by Lilly’s abilities and he agrees to help her get a job as a musician in an orchestra. They discover that because of Lilly’s African-American appearance no one wishes to hire her due to prejudice and fear of backlash from society. William puts on his own concert with Lilly. This turns out to be a raging success. She becomes a famous pianist, and she slowly starts to reconnect with James, and eventually falls in love with him. However, as a white slave owner, he is forbidden by the slave code to return her affections. Will he be able to overcome his own fears, jealousy and prejudice to form a romantic relationship with Lilly, or will he end up giving up on the love of his life?
I thought The Prodigy Slave: Journey to Winter Garden by Londyn Skye was well written, and I enjoyed reading it. This was because I found it very eye-opening in its treatment of African-American characters. Often, African-American characters in novels are whitewashed in that they can seem more white than black. I found Lilly had a much more realistic portrayal of an African-American character than in other novels. I appreciated this, as it helped me understand a little of what relationships between African-American slaves and their white owners must have been like. Further emphasis was made for me by the associations the author made between the slave code and the story at the start of each chapter.
Despite the likeableness and believability of Lilly’s character, and its helpfulness in understanding the relationships between slaves and their owners, I found the historical accuracy of this book to be lacking. This is because I found a couple of historical inaccuracies in how Lilly is dressed, such as the wearing of makeup and panties before they were in common use. I also did not like how the author occasionally switched accents for characters, because this made it hard to guess who was speaking.
I did, however, enjoy reading this novel very much. I would, thus, give it four out of four stars. This is because I thought it was very well written with believable characters and an entertaining storyline. I would recommend this novel to lovers of historical romance fiction.
The Prodigy Slave, Book One: Journey to Winter Garden
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