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]
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Our guest this week is no stranger to the Thrice Read blog. Sam reviewed her first two novels in previous posts, and this week, we have the pleasure of hosting a promotional post for her newest release in the series. Today, we’d like to welcome Gabriele Russo to our blog!
Jenn: Welcome, Gabriele. Before we really dive into the books, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Gabriele: Yes, anything in particular that you would like to know?
Jenn: I gather from your name and where you went to university, that you have a rich cultural background, and that life has brought you a long way from where you started out. Gabriele: I was born in Québec City, and I now live in Virginia, which is not that far, but not exactly where I thought I’d end up. I love it though – at least it’s warmer. I did live in Europe for a few years (my mother was German and so I still have family there), and South America, in Paraguay, for a bit.
Jenn: So, you’ve really been all over the world. What a fantastic experience! Have you always wanted to be an author? Or did you discover writing more by accident? Gabriele: I did try writing a few times before these novels, but it never quite meshed… I never finished anything, anyhow. Then I discovered Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, and I thought “This! This is what I want to write.” Something quirky, where I can have fun with words and dialog. And so, when my life changed, I sat down and tried to write. It worked, even if I still had ways to go into perfecting my craft.
Jenn: What advice would you offer to would-be authors?
Gabriele: First, I guess I would tell them to be certain that’s what they want to do. It can be heartbreaking at times. You need a thick skin. Then I would advise them to take classes, maybe not as I did, but at least a few – and most importantly to verify the credentials of the person giving the class. Which brings me to my third item of advice: to be very careful. The world of publishing is now filled with scammers.
Jenn: Indeed. We see a lot of warnings to would-be authors and published authors seeking homes for their new work. Alright… On to the good stuff. Book Three in the Gods, Inc. series comes out in just a few weeks. I know that Sam reviewed the first two books in the Gods, Inc. series, but could you summarize the series up to book 3 for our readers?
Gabriele: The series takes place in a world where the ancient mythological gods live alongside humans. They now mostly work at Gods, Incorporated, a huge multinational that polices the interactions between mortals and immortals, which is led by its CEO, Queen Louhi Pohjola, a mortal demigoddess turned vampire on a diet.
Jenn: A dieting vampire?
Gabriele: She doesn’t drink human blood, or at least tries not too. In the first book, Goblin, a bitter goblin with childhood issues takes over the company, to then take over the world and turn it into hell. In the second book, a fanatic atheist at the head of a powerful lobby/terrorist group has found a way to kill gods.
Jenn: The series plot sounds complex.
Gabriele: The thing to remember is that all the novels are independent stories. The third one is even more to the side. It takes place in the Gods, Inc. zoo, and pits Louhi and the gods against an old evil witch that doesn’t actually want to take over the world, just destroy it.
Jenn: Right. How would you classify this series? I’m getting a Young Adult/Paranormal vibe here. Maybe with a dash of fantasy?
Gabriele: It is not Young Adult, that’s for sure. There are almost no characters younger than thirty, and most are centuries old. Paranormal certainly. Fantasy, of course – other dimensions, magic being omnipresent… And if you take the official definition of naturalizing the supernatural, that fits too. This mixed with a humor that is also probably not very juvenile, more social satire. In fact, this third novel is the first one with a young character.
Jenn: Speaking of book 3, Now sounds like a great time to talk about that.
Gabriele: The story revolves around Hercules, Jupiter’s great-great-great-…-great-grandson. He’s the manager of the zoo, and lately, his charges (mostly immortal animals or gods in animal shape) have been going insane. When Louhi (accompanied by Jupiter, her fiancé Ba’al, and bodyguard Andrew) goes for her yearly visit, he tries to hide this from her but fails – let’s not forget to mention that he has a huge crush on her. When they investigate the matter, they realize that this plague of insanity is not natural and that the real target is Yggdrasil, the World Tree. And if Yggdrasil loses coherence, then so will the fabric of reality – meaning that there will be no more way to move between the planes of existence: the dead will be stuck on earth, souls meant to reincarnate won’t be able to come back, etc… All this because the evil witch Chiloe doesn’t want to go to hell, which she knows she richly deserves (she is quite the unapologetic villain).
Jenn: LoL… You have to love a villain who’s fully vested in her destruction! As we draw closer to the end of our time, is there anything else readers should know before they embark on this witty, satirical, mythological journey that is Gods, Inc.?
Gabriele: I wouldn’t want to give away any spoilers by inadvertence. Maybe just that I hope my books bring a little joy to them in these turbulent times.
Jenn: That’s a valid purpose to any book! How can readers connect with you on social media, or follow you on a website or newsletter?
Gabriele: They can follow me on Twitter or on my facebook page. My website also has a contact form and quite a few links to articles and interviews.
We’re a family of readers: Brian, Jenn, and Sam. Each of us has our favorite genres to read, but sometimes, we all read one book (because it was just that good!).
Among the pages and posts on our site, you’ll find the books we loved, the books we would read again (if only our wish lists weren’t so long!), and the books that we looked forward to reading, only to be disappointed.
We decided at the outset that we would never charge authors for reviews – competition and expenses are abundant enough. Instead, we screen the books we choose to read, and use Amazon Associate/Affiliate links to track purchases made through our posts. These links don’t cost you, the reader anything extra, and it doesn’t come out of the author’s royalties. It does help us pay the bills, and keep Thrice Read Books ad-free.
Brian, Jenn, and Sam all welcome you to the Thrice Read Books family! May you find your next great adventure right here.