4 out of 4 stars
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The Prodigy Slave, Book One: Journey to Winter Garden by Londyn Skye is a powerful story about a woman who, despite her circumstances, rises to become the best pianist in the world.
Lily is a young slave who was forcefully taken from her mother at the age of eight and shipped off to an auction where the vile Jesse Adams claims her as a house slave. She takes on the responsibilities of the previous housemaid, Auntie, who soon dies and leaves Lily to care for the plantation house and the Adams family alone.
We learn that the youngest son of Jesse, James, was Lily’s best and only friend for six years before Jesse finds out and turns James into the cruel man Lily thought James was incapable of becoming. Eight long years pass. James went away to study medicine and returns only to find that Lily has kept a secret from him; he finds her playing his mother’s piano.
The story soon unfolds to be a slow burn tale about James doing everything in his power to have Lily be freed from his father’s plantation to fulfil her dreams. He would do whatever is necessary to see Lily thrive.
Skye creates an emotionally impactful drama that sucks you into a world that is unkind and unfair yet filled with hope and belief that hard work will earn your dreams to come true. She tastefully addresses the unjust act of slavery and helps the reader understand precisely how dangerous James’ pursuits can become by defining slavery laws that relate to events in the chapter. She accurately depicts the struggles of people with colour during this era and the impact of what a single kind gesture can mean to someone who has nothing.
I genuinely enjoyed the focus on Lily’s abilities, the pureness of her relationships with other characters and the realistic hesitance to trust James. Lily develops from a submissive slave to a confident woman who thrives in her natural place on a stage. I loved the way people were inspired by her music as opposed to merely enjoying it. Men have transformed into their best selves after witnessing her talent and perfect pitch. Although this is a romance novel, Lily is not focused only on finding a love interest, but rather on her musical pursuits and friendships.
I have only one complaint, which is that the story plays out in a way that leaves the reader feeling like Lily has not struggled as much as one might have thought she would. Lily is protected by an army of people and grows comfortable in an isolated mansion where she starts to believe that people are accepting of her. All the negotiations and degrading remarks went through James and a musical professor which led her to believe that people don’t care if she is a slave or not. This fact only becomes true three quarters into the book. Her last performance is at Winter Garden during Christmas where the climax takes place and ends there. The book is left on one massive, ungratifying cliff hanger. The character development James has undergone is entirely thrown away due to the last few pages of the novel. Don’t worry, there are two more books in the series.
The main antagonist, Jesse, is barely mentioned throughout the 600 pages. The minor antagonist, Tucker McCormick, poses little threat and yet he’s thrown in regularly to stir up drama whenever the story becomes too monotone and positive, but nothing he does means anything in the great scheme of the plot. He’s a nuisance at most.
This novel is a historical romance that refuses to give instant gratification and only involves romance at the 80% mark. I enjoyed the slow growth of James and Lily’s relationship because it made their scenes together all the more gratifying to read. Every interaction between the two, as well as their thoughts about their friendship, are a treat amongst the musical performances and Tucker drama.
I would recommend this novel to young adults who enjoy slow burn romances. If you are sensitive to sexual acts of violence, racism, language and abuse, I suggest skipping this one. Although it doesn’t happen that much and isn’t too graphic, if this doesn’t sit well with you, this isn’t a book you’d enjoy. I give this 4 out of 4 stars despite disliking the ending (and Tucker) because the book is immersive and beautifully written with no errors and does not deserve anything less.
The Prodigy Slave, Book One: Journey to Winter Garden
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