4 out of 4 stars
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The Prodigy Slave, Book One: Journey to Winter Garden by Londyne Skye is a historical romance fiction novel set in the mid-1800s during the slave trade era in the United States of America. It is the story of a young woman slave, Lily wrenched from her slave mother's arms by her own father (the owner of her mother) at the tender age of nine years, is sold into slavery. As her own way of coping with the trauma of her separation, Lily secretly teachers herself to play the piano. She develops extraordinary talent which only comes to light due to her unusual relationship with James Adams, the youngest son of her master and owner. James, who secretly harbours feelings for Lily, uses his network and contacts of influential people to bring Lily's remarkable piano skills to the world, even as Lily remains a slave owned by his brutal father.
This is a well written book. I found it exhilarating, emotionally difficult and heart-wrenching at times. It was hard to put down. Skye, the author skilfully uses the true historical times of slave trade in the US to create characters that feel real, with strong personalities. I have vivid images of Lily and James forging a deep and intimate relationship starting as young innocent adolescent children, then growing into young adults during a time when such a relationship, when known, would have resulted in life changing punishment for both. Also Lily's father and mother appear only briefly in the first chapter but their characters are so clear that they remain engrained strongly in my mind long after the story unfolds.
I like that the author quotes at the beginning of each chapter, a part the then actual existing laws that governed slave trade and ownership that is relevant for each chapter; a skill that makes the story seem real. For example, chapter one starts with a section of the law that sets out the working hours and free time for slaves. This sets the stage for how Lily, a fulltime house-slave and James, her master's son attending school fulltime are able to forge an extraordinary deep and close friendship for many years without suspicion.
The book brings out issues around slavery, racism and the absurdity of it all. People who should know better actually recognize but cannot get past their skin-colour bias to embrace what is obviously extraordinary talent.
I really did not find much not to like about the book except for what I felt was rather exaggerated parts of characters, even for a work of fiction. Lily's extraordinary musical skills aside, she comes through as almost too perfect especially for a woman who was born into slavery, has been a slave since childhood and is illiterate. First, her mastery of the English language seems as good as that of James even when James goes through college and becomes a medical doctor. Her language is also as good as that of other characters who are professional people in their own right. Additionally, even though Lily has been a slave throughout her life and continues to cook, dust, wash and scrub floors as the house-slave, the author describes her as having soft skin and hands. It is hard to fathom that.
This book is exceptionally well edited. I found only one grammatical error and the story flows smoothly. I therefore rate the book four out of four stars.
I recommend this book to people who are interested in historical fictional romance novels and or with interest in understanding life during the slave trade era. However, it language, the book may not be suitable for non-adult and even adult readers who are not comfortable with such sexually explicit language.
The Prodigy Slave, Book One: Journey to Winter Garden
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