4 out of 4 stars
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Set in 1800s America The Prodigy Slave, Book One: Journey to Winter Garden by Londyn Skye explores the treatment and experiences of slaves through the eyes of Lily, a mixed-race slave who, the book reminds us, “is the full property of [her] master”. The story begins with the brutal way Lily is snatched from her mother and sold into a life of slavery. We are then taken 14 years into the future, where we find Lily sitting at the piano, reliving the day she was taken from her mother and sold to the highest bidder. It is telling that she is able to relive the memory with such haunting precision even after over a decade and reminds us of the trauma that people experienced during the slave trade. As the story progresses, we learn that Lily is a musical prodigy – she has a photographic memory and is able to memorise the sounds she has heard being played on the piano and uses this in secret to escape briefly from reality. We are taken on a journey of heartache and joy as Lily explores her gift and experiences a semblance of freedom in the face of oppression and stigma which presents numerous challenges in her pursuit of freedom and love.
The opening chapter is emotive and instantly draws you in. The desperation is palpable, and Skye paints a heart-breaking image of hopelessness and fear. The dialogue is written in a southern dialect which adds to the story and helps set the scene, transporting you to the time and place. It is written beautifully, and you feel all of the emotions of the character through the descriptive imagery used – from the fear of being abandoned, to the joy of realising that there is hope. Something that really stands out is that each chapter begins with a definition or an article from the Slave Code. Each is picked specifically to foreshadow the events of the chapter, and they build momentum as we see all the risks that are being taken by Lily and James Adams, her slave owner’s son and first love.
The story is full of unexpected twists, and at points leaves you wondering ‘why?’. The main characters are well developed, and we do get a sense of their personalities, morals and decision-making processes, although I did find James’ character frustratingly ignorant which clashed with his educated background as a doctor. The story does drag at points, and is a slow burner, but picks up at just the right points with a little bit of drama. Just as you think there might be a happy ending, you’re hit with a ‘did he really just do that?’ cliffhanger which really does make you want to dive into the next book.
I would suggest that the book is most suitable for mature audiences as it contains violence, racial slurs, profanity and explicit sexual content, but would also be suitable for young adults given the age of the main character and the genre.
Overall, I would rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. It is a captivating book and draws you in instantly, and the twists and turns keep you hooked, even through the lulls.
The Prodigy Slave, Book One: Journey to Winter Garden
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