POVone: The First Person Perspective

Rants and Reviews on Novels Written in the First Person Point of View

Tag Archives: Slavery

Book Review: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Author: Stacey Lee
Title: Under a Painted Sky
Genre: Young Adult; Historical; Literary
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: GP Putnam’s Sons (Random House)
Number of Pages: 384
Narrator: Samantha

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

What’s It About?

Samantha is the sixteen year old daughter of a Chinese immigrant living in mid-19th century Missouri. Trained in the violin, she has dreams of becoming a musician in an era that frowns upon female musicians and in a land that frowns upon non-white foreigners. Her father, with whom she is very close, has plans to move them out west to explore new possibilities in a land with less settlement and–as a result–less discrimination.

Then, in one moment, Samantha loses everything. She returns home one day to find the building in which she lived engulfed in flames–and her father trapped inside. Upon losing her father, her landlord takes pity on her and gives her a place to stay at his hotel. But what first appears to be pity soon shows itself as something else entirely.

Shortly after arriving at the hotel, Samantha is confronted by her landlord and told that she is responsible for the debt incurred by the loss of the building that had apparently burned due to her father’s negligence. To work off her debts, he informs her that he will be taking her in as a prostitute but, first, he needs to “test out the goods.” When he attempts to rape her, Samantha kills him.

Knowing she is sure to be put to death for the deed, Samantha goes on the run out west with a black slave girl from the hotel. To avoid suspicion, they disguise themselves as men heading out west in search of gold. As they journey along the Oregon Trail, they meet new friends and seek to avoid run-ins with the law as they claw their way to freedom.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy a good young adult adventure story, you’ll love this book–particularly if you enjoy history of the American south or the American west. The author captures the racial tension of the time, as well as the early notion of the American Dream that transcended ethnic lines. The story can be likened to Huckleberry Finn–including the themes of travel, race, and companionship. If enjoy that sort of historical adventure story, I would definitely give this book a shot.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: Kirkus Reviews, Pop Goes the Reader, The Social Potato

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Stacey Lee: Under a Painted Sky is Stacey Lee’s debut novel.

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Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Author: Sabaa Tahir
Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Genre: Fantasy
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill (Random House)
Number of Pages: 464
Narrators: Laia and Elias
Quality Rating: 87.98

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

What’s It About?

Laia is a “Scholar,” the oppressed class in a world divided between masters and slaves. When the remainder of her family is slain by her oppressors and her one remaining brother is taken captive, she goes out in search of the only people she believes can help–The Resistance. This ruthless band of rebels agrees to help free her brother with one condition: she must become a spy for them. Secretly working for the Resistance, Laia must become a personal servant of the most feared woman in existence–the cruel and merciless commander of the oppressive regime that slaughtered her family.

Meanwhile, Elias is graduating from the military academy to become a “Mask,” the murderous infantry of the ruling class that oppresses, exploits, harasses the slaves of the land. Elias hates the violence and despairs over the blood which will inevitably fall on his hands. Not only is he destined to become the very thing he despises, but he also has the misfortune of being the son of a mother who hates him–the commander of the army. Despite risking torture and execution, he plans to desert the empire before they can make him a muderer.

Just as he is about the leave, he is persuaded to stay by an Augur–the empire’s class of wisemen, in order to fulfill an obscure destiny. Shortly after deciding to remain, Elias and several of his classmates are selected to perform in the Trials–a prophesied and long awaited event whose victor becomes the next emperor and losers are promptly executed. As the Trials begin and Elias’s world becomes interwoven with Laia’s, both characters must fight to overcome their bleak circumstances and attain their own forms of freedom.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy darker young adult, dystopian fantasy, you will probably love this book. It’s a lot like Red Queen and The Fire Sermon in terms of class divisions, but the divisions are less on genetic lines and more simply on political lines. Although there is a vague semblance of a love triangle, the attraction between characters is less composed of flighty romance and more composed of shared identity and purpose. The story is told in alternating narration between the two protagonists–giving the reader insight into what it’s like to be both the oppressor and the oppressed. Themes include the interplays of betrayal and friendship, slavery and freedom, cruelty and mercy, and death and survival. While classified as YA, the realities of an oppressive regime are not hidden–and the resulting tone is somewhat dismal. And, while there are certainly dystopian and fantasy elements, the writing is layered and somewhat complex–so it would also be appealing to those interested in more literary works. If this sounds appealing to you, I would definitely pick this book up.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Book Reviews: New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, Redeye Chicago

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Sabaa Tahir: An Ember in the Ashes is Sabaa Tahir’s debut novel.