4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Dark Trades by Ken Harris is a historical fiction novel that explores a world where the Northern American states lost the Civil War between 1861 and 1865, and slavery was never abolished.
Set in modern-day Baltimore, the story follows thirty-five-year-old Harrison Vance, a slave who worked as a laundryman for his master. In this world, the government has taken several precautions to ensure that slaves never revolt again, including isolating them in massive incubators called "Crops," ensuring that communication with each other is limited, putting them under 24-hour surveillance, and even controlling their breeding. Harrison has always been one that accepts his fate and knows he will be terminated after his years of service at sixty-five; however, he falls in love with Meagan, who lives next to him in the Crops, even though he has never spoken to her. Watching her master constantly rape and abuse her awakens something in him. Suddenly, his choice changes from acceptance to freedom or death.
I have to start by saying that this is an incredible effort from Ken Harris. He has done a wonderful job of first asking, "what if?" Then, he proceeds to create a world that, in my opinion, accurately captures the measures that would have been taken to completely suppress slaves and abolitionists after the war. He also accurately captures the kind of effect fear can have on a person, which can force them to accept horrible situations. The story is told from the first-person point of view, as Harrison narrates things from his perspective. This is my favorite aspect of the book, as it thrusts the readers directly into his shoes to experience some of the horrors he saw and felt, which included watching a slave getting whipped for hours and having no say about anything in his life.
From the main character, Harrison, to the leader of the resistance he later joined, Apex, and abolitionists, like Senator Crest, the story did not lack in lovable personalities that readers can root for. However, the antagonists, like the president, provide a staunch test for them, and this creates a lot of suspense and moments when the main characters doubt their mission. The author also showcased his creativity by including a few laws that were passed in that world to control slaves, like the legislature enacted the Slave Licensing Act (SLA) and the Federal Slave Possession Act of 1987.
In addition, I found about three minor errors while reading, and this gave me the impression that the book was professionally edited. The book is also well organized and comprises forty-five concise chapters. While the book is a bit lengthy, the story has a quick pace and is easy to read through. I cannot think of anything I dislike about this novel.
On that note, I rate Dark Trades 4 out of 4. The story includes a few twists towards the end and concludes satisfyingly. I would recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction novels. There is some profanity included, so the book is only suited to a mature audience.
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon