A Slave of the Shadows

A Slave of the Shadows

by Naomi Finley


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In 1850 Charleston, South Carolina, brutality and cruelty simmer just under the genteel surface of Southern society. Beautiful and headstrong Willow Hendricks lives in an era where ladies are considered nothing more than property. Her father rules her life, filling it with turmoil, secrets, and lies. She finds a kindred spirit in spunky, outspoken Whitney Barry, a northerner from Boston. Together these Charleston belles are driven to take control of their own lives as they are plunged into fear and chaos on their quest to fight for the rights of slaves. Against all odds, these feisty women fight to secure freedom and equality for those made powerless and persecuted by a supposedly superior race.Only when they've lost it all do they find a new beginning.Book 1 presents Willow and Whitney--and the reader--with the hardships the slaves endure at the hands of their white masters.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781775067603
Publisher: Huntson Press
Publication date: 02/28/2018
Series: A Slave of the Shadows , #1
Pages: 328
Sales rank: 1,073,877
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.73(d)

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A Slave of the Shadows 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Dgunner254 More than 1 year ago
A Slave of the Shadows by Naomi Finley The 1800s were a very dark time in history. The countryside was rampant with sadistic slave owners. Women received no recognition or respect. The white man was a self-professed god among inferior humans. However, nature and nurture conspired to make Willow Hendriks into a formidable force. She was headstrong and forward thinking. She feared no man. Her interaction with one infuriating man only worked to strengthen her resolve. Set in 1850 in Charleston, North Carolina, this story revolves around Willow’s fight against brutality and cruelty. She grew up without a mum but was close to her father’s servants. She was brought up alongside her minder’s child and was also very close to the blacksmith despite the risk. She made a stance against persecution against a ‘superior’ section of the populace. She would not even let her father’s violent reaction to her stance deter her from chasing freedom and equality for those rendered powerless. Unlike most history-based stories, this one is more focused on the heroine and her struggles rather than on whatever romance she may get embroiled in. The period the story is set in was very male-centric which makes this story all the more unique. It is refreshing without deviating from the traits of that period. It is interesting and captivating. Right from the beginning, the reader understands Willow’s struggle being her father’s only child. One understands just how much of a burden her father’s expectations are. The characters in A Slave of the Shadows are individually developed. Each of them has a background story. The reader gets to meet each of them. One gets to understand the nuances and personality of each character. The characters come to life and interact with the reader. This only enhances the experience by making one feel like they are walking around the plantation. Breathing in the fresh country air. They have depth and are relatable. The relationship between James and Willow is especially special. He feels a void that Willow’s father refuses to fill. He is protective and affectionate of Willow in an endearing way. This is despite what could happen if Willow’s father found out. The story is told from Willow’s perspective for the most part. The reader gets a unique opportunity to wander through her mind, wading through her thoughts. The reader will experience the torment in Willow’s being at having lost her mother and living with her father’s ideals in excruciating detail. Other facets of the story are told from a third person perspective. This gives the story a sort of three-dimensional feel. One feels like they are part of the story. Involved in Willow’s activities but only observing the rest of the action. Naomi Finley has left this story open. There is no conclusive resolution to the story. At the end, one is left with a sense of foreboding. It is a genius way of building anticipation for a sequel. She has done an excellent job of telling a great story with seamless flow and brilliant storyline. This book deserves five stars
CJ2277 More than 1 year ago
I’ve read a few books based on historical eras and events before and liked them, but I wouldn’t say it was my ‘favorite’ genre. I feel like too often the author is just rewriting history to appeal to a modern-day audience with the standard themes we’ve all seen done to death or doesn’t feel new. But I was intrigued by “A Slave of the Shadows” by Naomi Finley for a few reasons; one being I’ve never read a book with slaves other than “Gone with the Wind” many years ago, and they were more of supporting figures than central ones. And it is a pretty sanitized version of the treatment of slaves and plantation life. I thought it would be kind of interesting to read this story and see what this version would offer - the opening sample showed great promise with Finley’s strong writing. So I read it, and was simply blown away by just how incredible and addicting this book was on so many levels. I don’t know how she managed to combine such an impressive combination of opposites – the ugly brutality with the lush, loving beauty. The powerlessness and the powerful. The helplessness and the strong. Unspeakable acts against humanity done under the guise of the law, and remarkable acts of compassion and courage. Finely tells a powerful, sweeping tale but does so with remarkable grace considering the heavy and bleak subject matter at times. I feel like I have a better understanding of this time period now and how our world is still directly impacted by the past era. I am glad I had the chance to read it and would certainly recommended to others.
LeoG2 More than 1 year ago
this novel by Naomi Finley was so well written and researched, and delivers a compelling story that will affect me for some time come – so much so that I have really no other option but to give this book 5 stars. It really is an incredible body of work, but more than that it brought the past to life for me in a way that few, if any, books have for me that I can remember. Often if I read a historical fiction it is more sanitized, romanticized. Not here! Finley artfully delivers humanity, love, hate, fear, anguish, hope, morality and mortality… bringing them to our front door and inviting them in. There is no escaping the ‘personal’ experience one has while reading this book, and when it happens to the characters, it happens to you. And to me that is what makes it stand out from the masses these days. A great combination of humanity-even when behaving as monsters- and history, told through a strong narrative that is both rough and shocking at times, but always authentic. Great job, Ms. Finley
DarleneCupp More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars What a solidly crafted novel. Each part was so authentically-developed and the world-building is full of rich details that I feel as if I know these people and are there in the story with them (but fortunately I wasn’t). Far reaching, sweeping, and heartfelt, I did think the beginning was a tad too slow, but the second half of the book was much stronger than the first. The characters seemed to show more form, and the story felt like it had more direction and focus. I really loved so many of these characters – Willow, Mammy, Mary Grace, Whitney… their chemistry is real and so is their love and respect for each other. AT fist I was shocked by some language and even more shocked at the portrayal of the treatment – even though I shouldn’t have been. Bu there is nothing safe about this book, and the story line accurately reflects the savagery of man, but also the strength and beauty of woman. A solid addition to the Historical fiction genre and I will definitely be reading “A Guardian of Slaves” when it comes out next year.
Darla_Ortiz More than 1 year ago
this book is great piece of historical fiction and I am at a loss for words to describe the depth of the emotions I experienced while reading it. Parts made me feel shame at even being a human. Some made me proud and others made me want to leap through the pages and throttle a character. (or hug them). So powerful on so many levels and Naomi Finley is fearless when it comes to tackling uncomfortable scenes and making the characters come alive in these pages. I felt such a deep connection to them, and even though I know it’s a fiction novel you know that a lot of it is true – or at least this is reflective of how things were then. It was easy to get lost in and I found myself just wanting to read more… and more… and more… we really live in this time in history just by experiencing the lives of these incredible characters who are so true to life and authentic, yet unlike any I’ve met before. Intense scenes, violence and cultural behaviors that are impeccably detailed – for better or worse. This is definitely not just another typical ‘slave’ story – not by a long shot. I am happy I was able to read this book, even if some parts were a little tough to take. This is the first book in a series, and I am looking forward to the next one. I’d have no reservations recommending it for older readers of historical fiction.
JGoldmanJG More than 1 year ago
Naomi Finley can write a complex story with rare skill. She shows you a world though so many different characters’ eyes and makes it matter, makes it believable, and makes it vital. Some elements of this book are fairly well-known, others are pure inventiveness and imagination. Although set in pre-war South (or the events recalled are during that period), “A Slave of the Shadows” is written with a current feel and strong narrative style that manages to be ‘entertaining’ even when being bleak and violent and heartbreaking. What Finley does well is build, develop, and breathe life into the plot-points based around the relationships of the characters – which is what gives it a distinction over being just some nonfiction narrative about slave life or the fight for independence. She writes great characters that you can really believe in, but it's in their interactions is where they truly shine. The action grows at a slow but steady pace through the books and continues to build in dramatic, unexpected ways, taking us to the bittersweet end that promises even more to come. Recommend.
SamRyan More than 1 year ago
very, very, very good. It’s not often that I start reading a book and it consumes me right away and forces me to re-prioritize my life for a little while. “A Slave of the Shadows” by Naomi Finley is *not* a quick or light read by any stretch…. There are too many important events and experiences here to rush over so Ms. Finley takes her time in carefully developing the various facets of the story as seen through the eyes of two very amazing women in Whitney and in Willow… A lot is told in Willow’s first-person POV but it also shifts smoothly to a third-person we can see other perspectives, like Bowden and Knox. I liked Ms. Finley’s writing style very much, very descriptive and flowing but she isn’t shy about and found myself completely lost in this world she recanted night after night. I was horrified at some things I read – this is a book that will get inside your guts and rip it out at times. Poor Mary Grace. But that is how it was and that is why a book like this is so important. This is a tough story that doesn’t shy away from revealing the brutality of man and events like massacre and torturing or raping of slaves – those deemed ‘less than human’ but the story definitely needs to be told. Finley doesn’t glorify or celebrate the violence – just exposes it. Was almost disappointed when I was done, but I am glad to see there is more on the way with another book. Recommend to fans of historical fiction, or anyone who just enjoys an entertaining, well-written story with lots of passion, action, real-life drama, and exceptional writing. Best suited for mature readers.
Coreeez More than 1 year ago
"A Slave of the Shadows” by Naomi Finley is hands down one of the most riveting and well-crafted books I’ve read in quite a while. I was engaged from the very first pages (which sets the stage for the players and the time period and provides the necessary historical context) and I thought that Finley’s descriptions of the different characters and attention to detailing on all fronts were extremely impressive and very authentic – we truly feel we are experiencing plantation life in mid-1800’s Charleston. Even if she takes some creative liberties with some of the characters – which is perfectly acceptable in historical fiction, she captures the essence of the time period – attitudes, rules and laws, and treatments of slaves and of women – revealing many important truths that some may have never before heard. It is profoundly shocking and eye-opening, and we feel transported not only into life in this pivotal, horrific time in history, but really see firsthand the terrible treatment and reality for so many who weren’t white men. It was a fascinating and eye-opening escape from my own reality as we are thrust into the past and become attached to these characters – especially Willow and Whitney, but the others were all well done as wall and are emotionally invested in their fates as well—which isn’t always what you expect (or hope for). It is deeply upsetting and sad at times, and Finely holds no punches in telling it how it is – including using authentic language of the time. But there is an inspiring message of strength and hope and this is just the first book in the series so I am very curious to see where it will all go next. Fabulous writing and flawless editing throughout.
BellaReadz More than 1 year ago
holey moley, this book was incredible! Once I began reading it was hard to tear myself away, even when the knots in my stomach became almost too heavy to bear. It is so beautifully intense and there is so much that happens packed into these pages, I found myself having to take breaks just to process it all! This isn’t a book to be rushed – more like something you sink back with for a while and let it take over your soul and just get lost in from the comfort of your home and go back in time where things are so different from how they are now – but also in a way many of the same truths about inequality remain true today, and there are lessons to be learned from that. Naomi Finley’s literary voice and writing style is perfect for this genre, and I am surprised to see that this is her first (and only?) book? I looked to see if she’s done others and didn’t see any which makes this effort even more impressive. It is clear that she has a great interest and passion for this era and the people of it, but this doesn’t always translate into a readable and entertaining book the way that “A Slave of the Shadows” does. We learn a lot of ‘facts’ about what happened, but also there is a story there with characters we sympathize with and root for that makes it all the more compelling. I have to commend Ms. Finley on the fantastic editing job. I didn’t see any mistakes, so rare in e-books these days. I’d love to read more from her! Highly recommend.
KMatthews More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a surprisingly good book. It does take a lot to really impress me these days, but there were at least several times in this book that I was caught off guard shocked, or moved or horrified by what happened. Some parts were a bit slow, and there were the occasional periods where I started to hear the author’s ‘message’ more than the storyline itself. But overall it was a very engaging page turner filled with insight into life for slaves, women and other classes of people in the 19th-century pre-Civil War South… and done in ways I’ve never read about before. Naomi’s research is through and it shows in the detailing, the dialect, the descriptions… the editing and formatting was perfect – polished and professional. I am excited to read the next one and it was a captivating and enlightening experience that fans of historical fiction will definitely enjoy.
MarcellaGonz More than 1 year ago
this is an amazing book that far surpassed my expectations on several levels. Each scene was very well described, informative, and had a fast-paced flow (with short chapters) that made it so easy to read – even when reading rough scenes… but never a “boring part” where you get bored or want to skip ahead… in fact almost the opposite with the various interweaving plotlines and going from one exciting and/or disturbing event to the next, and some of the atrocities described brought a tear to my eyes. Of course we all know how awful slavery was but really seeing it and being part of the experience makes it all the more real - hits home the barbaric and cruel and inhumane conditions and no one is spared, not even little children. There are distressing scenes, but they don’t feel obscene or gratuitous – just sadly realistic for the time. And even though this is all taking place in the 1800’s, we feel as if we are experiencing their lives in real time. Funny how some things are just as applicable today as they were 150 years ago! Lots of intense conflict and some heartbreaking turn of events that will break your heart – but also some remarkable women who will inspire you. Naomi Finley writes with such clear focus and demonstrates her knowledge and passion for her subjects, characters and puts them in proper historical context. I would love to read the next one when it’s available “A Guardian of Slaves”. She really has a gift for creating a well-thought out story and bringing important events to life, and I feel like I have more understanding of this part of history.
LauraClarke More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars as I was reading “A Slave of the Shadows” by Naomi Finley, my first novel by this author, I was trying to figure out what it was that I liked so much about it, as it definitely isn’t my usual type of book. Then I realized that it is because Ms. Finley makes writing this epic, powerful story seem simply effortless. At first glance, she hardly bothers to do more than sketch her characters, yet they become so huge so quickly. Characterization has to be done well to create a memorable persona (real or fictitious) so that the actions affect us. Otherwise we would just read ‘about’ these events and not care. Yet we really do –Finley gives them authentic personalities – language and mannerisms and see how they react to their extraordinarily challenging circumstances --- and they all shine through and are real, not lost in the large ensemble cast of players and never feel interchangeable. Finley also has an amazing talent for story architecture and world-building. We visualize each scene and feel thrust into this world that is richly layered, increasingly complex, and brilliantly realized – bordering of terrifying at times. This is a slave-owning plantation in the South before any sort of civil rights or emancipation, and all its sins are brought to light. Was a bit caught off guard by several things and was starting to feel sort of desensitized to the coarse talk and the violence by the end, but it works well with the spirit of the story and its overall message and is profoundly important, not gratuitous. There is a nice humanistic side to it as well, which played into a riveting story layered with fact and fiction, love and hate. One of the more unexpectedly good books I’ve read of late and I’m glad I had the opportunity to read this.
ClaireBear74 More than 1 year ago
I love historical fiction but hadn’t read any in a while, and I love reading books about the South so I thought I’d give this one by Naomi Finley a try. World building is crucial in selling a believable historical fiction that can entertain yet stay true to the “facts” and realities of the past. Not only did I really enjoy reading this, despite some very unpleasant ‘realities’ of the cruelness of slavery, I actually feel like I learned something more about this time period that I didn’t know before – more of a candid insight what life is like for someone living it, and all the mayhem, and also from those fighting it. The pace was a little slow for me at first, but as I read on it seemed better. Fast paced with authentic dialogue – even some n-words which may shock you if you aren’t expecting it, but it is done in historical context. Very clean editing and flowing prose that that is powerful and memorable.
SDecker More than 1 year ago
Just from the description I wasn’t really sure if this would be my thing, but I was intrigued by the quality writing sample and decided to dive right in. Well I wasn’t disappointed at all, in fact I think that “A Slave of the Shadows” is by far one of the more flat out interesting and well-written books I’ve read in a long while. I like how it felt like we were so involved the story the whole way through as it develops from the various’ characters perspectives (it switches from 1st person to 3rd person omniscient seamlessly), and so we see what they see, feel what they feel. It’s like watching a movie and having it happen to you at the same time. Some of the cruelty suffered by slaves felt more real than when you just ‘read about them’ in history books or whatever. We feel like we are there with them – which isn’t always pleasant, but we owe it to them to respect the suffering and indignities they endured. I kept wondering how it would all wrap up, an in one regard a chapter of the story is over but a whole new one just opened up. Great editing and I hope to read more from Ms. Finley soon.
SteffyC More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars well, this book took me a long while to read, because I have such limited free time, but in the end I’d say it was certainly worth it! I like how everything finally came together after everything that happened and I enjoyed every page, even the ones that were dark, bleak, and frankly unbelievable (even though its true to some extent) that people were allowed to act that way. It’s just so hard to believe that people can act like monsters for no reason and have such little regard for human life. It’s so sad. Naomi Finley writes VERY well… very descriptive and strong and we feel such a strong connection to the plight of each of the characters and their unorthodox lives as they go through experiences that are emotionally and physically impactful. At times I felt a little confused as to the timing of the events and when the story was happening, as it would jump around character perspectives, and there were times where I longed for more tension—the pacing slowed a little too much for my tastes (I found myself skimming sometimes). But it has plenty of dramatic, heartfelt moments that will have your jaw on the floor shaking your head in disbelief. The ending is satisfying, even though there is clearly much more to come in the next one. Overall a complex, wonderfully connected story about extraordinary times and the women who survive and push against typical boundaries to affect change. Hope the next one comes out soon, because I can’t wait to read more.
GillianH More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved “A Slave of the Shadows”. This book absolutely meets the criteria for what I'd like to see more of in historical fiction: There is grand action and ongoing sense of danger, drama, and important high stakes regarding condition of humanity and even life-and-death desperation and gut-wrenching situations… There are characters from all walks of life and we can see their viewpoints, how they talk and treat others, some events are clearly inspired by historical precedence, and some created by the author herself. But you can tell Finley has done her homework researching the subject. There is also an element of friendship and female kinship I foud to be inspiring – especially in a genre that often pits women against one another for a man’s affections. Willow and Whitney are no such delicate flowers, and their story is nothing short of remarkable. Whether you're new to historical fiction or it's an old love, I'd say this book is worth checking out. It has a little bit of something for everyone. (Probably most appropriate for adults).
AprilDawn More than 1 year ago
"A Slave of the Shadows” by Naomi Finley is brilliantly, powerfully written with some of the most interesting and compelling situations and scenes I’ve read, and I liked how each of the different characters – Willow, Whitney, her father, Mary Grace, Bowden and the rest all had their own unique set of circumstances---Their humanity and strength and courage really shines through in a very inhumane time and place, giving us a candid look into a life that you don’t really see very often. I’ve never read a book that gets so into the specifics of slave conditions and women… and it’s interesting to get such an intimate look at this time in history. An important, relevant story, excellently- written, perfect editing and ties together well at the end but leaves door open for more.
KayleeeKS More than 1 year ago
To say this is totally unlike anything I’ve ever read before would be an understatement. I’m not sure how to even describe this book as so much happens, and it seems to touch on so many elements, themes, and subjects – from sadistic characters to sweet ones. Smooth pacing, plenty of action, and amazing characters/personalities, along with true, real life players and historical drama makes this a huge winner in my eyes. I think that you need to take your time while reading it to really grasp everything that is going on – it’s easy to want to read it really fast, and even though it’s long it was hard not to rush it. But each chapter ending made me just want to read the next immediately and to see how it would all turn out. Wasn’t always happy with the turn of events, but for me characters are key – I have to believe in them and I have to care about them. And I certainly did here. A profound, provocative, and at times uncomfortable foray into the past, set against a dynamic backdrop of pre-civil rights and history-making events. Incredibly detailed writing and some of the best narrative prose I’ve encountered. Recommend for readers of historical fiction.
CodyBCB More than 1 year ago
"A Slave of the Shadows” is no mere fluff piece with pretty ladies wearing ball gowns and fanning themselves while sipping sweet tea on their porches as the happy slaves sang their songs in the garden. No, this is a hard-hitting, realistic and detailed look at what life is really like on a plantation, the way slaves are treated and also women. This is one of the better researched and written books I have read in a very long time on this subject – and from the moment I picked it up and read the first pages I was intrigued. The characters and settings are so real and intense and the descriptions are so vivid and full of life and detailing on all fronts, it is impossible to not feel engaged. The author has painted a picture of life the South that some might not like, but others will applaud her candor. We all have ‘heard’ about slavery and seen films, or read books – but here Naomi Finley entwines it with a storyline that is very tumultuous, sad, dangerous, intelligent, and it is done with passion and remarkable attention to detail in a way that will stay with the reader for a long time. Anyone who has an interest in stories that also tell real events from the past – and how it still affects our present times --- will like reading this book. This is just book #1 in the series and I am looking forward to seeing where it goes next. Recommended for mature readers of epic historical and African-American fiction.
TabithaP1 More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars I was completely hypnotized by this world Naomi Finley created. Very descriptive and lifelike scenes that felt very genuine, and feel like I learned something and have a new appreciation for certain historical events that feel more ‘personal’ to me now. Incredible characters, easy to understand and to believe in, and even though I’m not all thoroughly familiar with this era of US history (I was raised in UK) I enjoyed learning more about it. But “enjoy’ does seem like a strange term when there are so many awful terrible things that happen. It was an interesting look inside just what life was like for the people during these times, and on a plantation in the South for people of color and even for women. Makes you grateful that we live where we do, and when we do (*knocks wood). There are just so many elements to this book, it is truly on an epic scale. But impressively it doesn’t get too confusing, and all came together to create a fresh-feeling book that was out of the ordinary and kept me invested throughout. Suitable for older readers who want to read a different, more personal view into life in the South. I want to read “ Guardian of Slaves” when it is published.
essieh More than 1 year ago
oh wow, okay… how to describe this book, other than say it is by far one of the most impactful books I’ve read in a long time!! – meaning it affected me on an unusual level more than just a ‘regular’ historical novel or book normally would. I have already loaned it to my mother to read, as it is right up her alley. The author Naomi Finley pulls us in to the story right from the beginning pages, and skillfully narrates a wide-ranging storyline full of complex and deeply disturbing events during the 1800’s in the South (this takes place in Charleston, SC), including murders, sexual and other abuses. But it is also action-packed, and loaded with fascinating historical details and an intimate connection with people who experienced life in these trying times--especially the strong women who defy ‘custom’ and are trying to make things better. In my opinion it really is the characters who made this story so good, each so original and conflicted in their own way, and we pull for them throughout their personal journeys. Doesn’t always go how we think or even hope, but that gives this story a more organic feel, not one that is contrived with a happy-ending, even though it ends on a bittersweet – but inspiring note. A memorable read and a keeper for sure. Highly recommend for fans of historical drama/ fiction
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Jane Finch for Readers' Favorite A Slave of the Shadows by Naomi Finley tells the story of Willow Hendricks and her life at the Livingstone Plantation in Charleston, South Carolina during the mid 1800s. Willow finds herself increasingly disturbed by the treatment of the slaves on not only her own plantation, but on neighbouring ones too. She is raised by Mammy, a black slave, and Mammy’s daughter becomes her best friend. Willow is tormented by the little knowledge she has of her own mother, and resentful of her father who is strict and uncompromising. Willow makes friends with Whitney Barry from a neighbouring plantation and together they set out to try to make life better for the slaves, and to fight against the slaves’ oppression. However, the actions of Willow and Whitney threaten to get out of hand and when Willow finally finds out the truth of her past, she realises that life will never be the same again. The author, Naomi Finley, has skilfully crafted an epic story of oppression and obsession set in the deep south during a time when equality was unheard of and slavery was the norm. The characters of Willow and Whitney are perfectly developed, and the descriptions of life in these times is both upsetting and awe-inspiring. This is absolutely a book that has to be read if possible in one sitting, because it is impossible to put down. Each chapter leaves the reader hanging and consistent reading is compelling. Well done to an author that not only has a message to portray, but has done so in a professional and incredible way. An amazing book, and I, for one, can’t wait for the sequel. I enjoyed it immensely.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A compelling, intricate and harrowing tale of a young woman growing up during colonial America is what readers will find in Naomi Finley’s book A Slave of the Shadows. Our protagonist, Willow Hendricks, is a young white woman who is the sole daughter and heir to a plantation in Charleston in 1850. For a woman who lives in an era of being seen and not heard, Willow is stubborn, outspoken and refreshingly honest. She dislikes the accepted treatment of black people and is not afraid to let it show: in appropriate situations. While she risks herself to defend them, she is naïve and privileged. She will learn in due time that good intentions cannot make the world a better place on their own. Finley’s mastery over the written word is evident in this book. The descriptions of characters, locations and expressions make the reader believe that they are present in that world: you can smell the grass, feel the heat and sense the raw emotion that exudes from the characters. There is never a wasted word, sentence or paragraph. Everything has its place and everything has meaning. These are troubling times for America and Finley uses that discomfort and uncertainty in her tale. The story is told primarily through first person experiences with Willow, but Finley does take the time to shift perspective to other important characters. This keeps the tale from being stale and boring. Willow, however, is privileged. She is white; she is the daughter of a highly respected man and is well off in all manners of life. While readers will get the impression that Willow is not comfortable with the way slaves are treated, she is blinded by delusions of grandeur. In the beginning of the book she is a single outspoken woman in a world dominated by white men. She is reckless and puts herself in the path of harm more often than she should. She doesn’t truly seem to understand how much the colour of her skin keeps her alive. As the book develops, however, her naiveté is challenged and she truly begins to become an ally to slaves and their plight. It’s a good tactic for a book that is the first in a series. While things are not wholly resolved in this first book, they begin to move in a promising direction. Given the state of the world when this review was written, it may be difficult to read this book for many reasons. It is a stark reminder of the standing of blacks in America and how things have really not changed all that much. The storytelling is divine and it is exciting to see where things will lead in the second book. Naomi Finley creates a strong female lead in her book A Slave of the Shadows and describes the world of colonial America in 1850 so well it’s as if you can feel it as you read. The story is engaging, fantastically written and will leave readers wanting more. High expectations for the book that will follow.
AprilPulliam More than 1 year ago
Willow Hendricks, the main character of Naomi Finley’s A Slave of the Shadows, is a headstrong and forward-thinking southern belle who wants nothing more than to see the slaves on her father’s plantation freed. Having been raised without her mother, cared for by Mammy, and raised alongside Mammy’s daughter, Mary Grace, Willow does not share her father’s love for running their plantation, Livingston. Run-ins with cruel and sadistic slave catchers, the burden of a childhood trauma, and the forging of new relationships fill Finley’s historical fiction drama set in 1850s Charleston. Willow, progressive and fearless, is a heroine like no other. As I began A Slave of the Shadows, I picked up on that Gone With the Wind vibe. It is evident, however, that Finley has taken an entirely different turn from other novels based in this era. It is not often that we see a heroine’s story played out minus a heavy focus on romance. Willow Hendricks, a girl in her late teens, is as liberal and unyielding as a young woman could possibly be in the pre-Civil War South. Her disdain for seeing the slaves on her father’s plantation kept in servitude overcomes her, and that fire continues to build within her as the novel progresses. She is in no way shy about her feelings and, as violent as her father becomes at her opposition, she remains grounded and vocal. Willow’s relationship with James, the blacksmith on her father’s plantation, is precious and touching. He loves her as much as the daughter he lost to circumstances beyond his control. In return, Willow sees him as every bit the father her own is unwilling to be. James is ever-protective of Willow and knows their relationship is a source of concern for everyone around them should Willow’s father, Charles, realize how close they are. I appreciate the shift in point of view Finley provides throughout her work. Each of the brief chapters written in third person describing the secondary characters’ backgrounds adds necessary and interesting layers to the plot. In addition, Willow’s first-person account is perfectly crafted. The reader is afforded the opportunity to glimpse inside her mind and feel the anguish she experiences regarding the unanswered questions she has about her father’s business and her mother’s death. The tension created by the early encounters with Bowden Armstrong serves to create an even more vivid picture of Willow Hendricks as a force with which to be reckoned. Her obvious pain and embarrassment at Bowden’s previous treatment of her shapes Willow into a fighter by all accounts. Her vulnerability later with Bowden is timed well and welcomed as this reader wanted to see Willow, a tormented soul, find happiness. The side story involving Ruby is one I wanted to see more of and wanted it to come quickly. However, Finley moves at a quick pace in a different direction with the plot. I never felt quite satisfied with the outcome of Willow’s trip to New York and her chance meeting with Ruby. I give A Slave of the Shadows an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars. Finley weaves a beautiful tale of genuine love and understanding while keeping her writing true to the era. The human spirit is alive and well in her character, Willow Hendricks, and Willow is, without a doubt, a worthy heroine.