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Posted August 10, 2012
Beneath the Slashings is the third and final installment in the Divided Decade Trilogy, which shows the American Civil War from three different angles. They all feature different characters and plots, united by the Civil War as a backdrop, so each can be read as a stand alone.
First off (even though it's probably quite cheesy), I'm from Michigan, and I myself write books in Michigan. This story is set in Michigan as well, so I enjoyed that. While I've never been particularly interested in the Civil War, this story really brought the time period alive. Ms. Isenhoff has become one of my favorite indie writers for her well-paced plots and vivid, descriptive prose. The latter is what strikes me most about her books--you can practically see the ramshackle camp, smell the forest and taste the food that is prepared in the kitchen.
Beneath the Slashings is not just historical fiction, it also contains a compelling mystery and themes of loss, friendship and change. They are all woven together flawlessly to create a fast-paced, action filled story that never disappoints. Even though the book takes place pretty much exclusively in the logging camp, it is so three-dimensional that it never gets boring. There are also themes of young romance and coming of age, which is especially hard for a girl with no other women around for companionship.
Grace was a great lead character, she is at the age where she doesn't really understand her father's decisions from all angles. Fear has taken over her life, as she's lost friends and family to the Civil War both by death and people being divided and moving away. When she first arrives at the camp, she sequesters hersef in the kitchen, and even her patient twin brother Sam can't get her out of her shell. Yet as time passes and she interacts with the lumberjacks she begins to warm up.
All of the characters are well-fleshed out, and I especially enjoyed the Russian cook Ivan and the teller of tall tales, Fiddlesticks (given that nickname for his talent with a fiddle). Each had their own unique personalities and felt real. I like how their reactions to the end of the war weren't so cut and dried; there were conflicting feelings and opinions, which felt more authentic.
I would definitely recommend this book to readers from fourth grade and up, and any adult who enjoys a solid, entertaining read. I look forward to more books by Ms. Isenhoff in the future.
(Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)