About the Book:
In 1739, England and Spain are on the verge of war and former slaves are arriving in St. Augustine, where the Spanish will give them their freedom in exchange for their loyalty. Fourteen-year-old Jem has escaped a cruel master but is now in the custody of Phaedra, a difficult and angry woman. He thought he was free, he thought he was a man – but Phaedra controls his every move and takes every opportunity to remind him that he’s still a child. And as the threat of war becomes more real, Jem starts to understand the meaning of freedom and the complex connections that make a community.
The year is 1739. Tons of slaves are running to Spain from England for freedom away from their cruel masters. In return, they are expected to help destroy the English. Jem sees this as a chance to get back at his master, and prove that he’s a man. However, there’s just one teeny, tiny problem. He’s under the custody of the bitter and angry Phaedra. And she won’t let him fight.
Jem and the others have lived in Fort Mose (say Moh-Zay) for almost as long as the war has been going on. Everybody else has taken the oath of allegiance to Spain, but Phaedra won’t let Jem take the oath. She believes that Jem’s too young to fight, to serve for the Spanish army. He’s looking for a sign that he’ll finally join the Spanish army. He believes that the sign he’s been waiting for all this time is the owlet Omen, the one he saved from crows. As Omen gets older, everyone at Fort Mose tells him to get rid of Omen because he might be bad luck, that he might harm their chickens, but Jem knows that Omens is his responsibility. And Jem will always protect Omen as best as he can.
The English begin to attack the fort, and the people living there are forced to move to the Castillo, where refugees are. There is little food, and a tension between the Spanish and the former slaves is growing. The English attack the Castillo, but their attack fails.
Jem learns that one of his friends, the trader Reynard, is a traitor, working for the English. When Reynard asks him to join the English, Jem knows that he’ll be sold back into slavery, and he turns down the offer. This gets hims burns when he’s forced to pay for his refusal. Then comes an attack by the Spanish on Fort Mose, where Jem is finally allowed to fight. When the battle is over Jem sees that he’s not the only one who’s lost kin…
This is only part of Jem’s tale. You can read the rest in the book The Other Side of Free by Krista Russell. This book was published by RR Donnelley & Sons in 2013. I’m giving this book four stars for a gripping tale, and would recommend it to preteens and juveniles. This book is historical-fiction, non-illustrated, and the book I read was first edition.
This book is available from Amazon in Kindle and hardcover editions here. [affiliate link]