Alright, so originally I was going to wait until the 5th book came out to review these as a whole. I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to be reviewing the current 4 as a whole right here. I might still read the fifth book when it comes out, but for now, here are my collective thoughts on the series at this point in time. Please be advised it is merely my personal opinion and I don’t intend any disrespect whatsoever towards the author. I am trying to be as gracious as I possibly can.
Mechanical-wise, the writing could use a little polishing and there did appear to be a couple of anachronisms, which are always annoying. There was also quite a bit of head-hopping and some pieces of dialogue could’ve used a speaker tag.
What I did like:
- The friendships and the familial relations.
- If I had to choose my favorite character, I’d probably pick Constance Angelica. (I love prissy characters who turn into softies, ok?) Or I’d pick the Union soldier. If you know, you know. (The only con to this was the massive amount of characters in this series as a whole)
- Some moments I liked; unfortunately, aside from the Union soldier, I can’t quite remember all of them.
What I didn’t like:
- At least 1-2 Bible verses appeared to be taken out of context. Because the Bible is the Word of God, we who are Christians ought to be very careful when using verses for our stories lest we fall into cherry-picking, thus distorting the original context.
- The way the Gospel was treated came across in a nonchalant, trivial way, almost like a Band-Aid. Um…the Gospel ain’t a Band-Aid, folks. What the Gospel does do is reveal how spiritually dead as a doornail we are and how desperately we need a Savior.
- Regarding the historical background, it seemed as though only one side was being presented in a ‘fair’ manner while the other was a bit distorted. Yes, some Union soldiers did fight to free the slaves. Why? Because they believed it was the only way slavery would end in the United States. Many people believed it, actually. Also, while some of the Northern men were depicted as fighting for the South, which did indeed happen, there are no Southern men depicted fighting for the North, despite the fact that that also happened.*
- The way black people are depicted in this made me a bit uncomfortable. The way their speech is written put me off, they come across as always agreeing with the white Southerners, they’re all basically relegated to being background characters, and Black Union regiments aren’t mentioned until the 4th book (if my memory serves correct) despite the fact they started to form (as volunteers) in 1862.
- MINOR SPOILER: I’m sorry to say I found a certain scene where a slave was freed lacking. It came more across as a pat-yourself-on-the-back thing rather than an actual good thing. Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad the man was freed, but the way it was depicted fell flat for me.
- Frederick Douglass, a man who escaped the horrors of slavery to become an abolitionist, an eloquent speaker, and an advisor to President Lincoln; a man who believed photographs had the power to destroy racial stereotypes and was certainly well-known by the time of the war, was totally nonexistent.
- I also didn’t like how it seemed to imply Lincoln was fully responsible for the war when in reality, the war was the culmination of multiple events that had been falling like dominoes since before he was born. Nor did I like how the South’s atrocities were basically swept under the rug but the North’s atrocities were certainly talked about and put on display.
- The footnotes were helpful for the most part; but saying Andrew Johnson turned his back on his heritage and calling the Emancipation Proclamation ‘propaganda’ sounded unprofessional, imho. Aside from wondering which part of his heritage Johnson turned his back on, I wouldn’t exactly call the EP propaganda. Yes, it is true that it didn’t free all the slaves; however, it did basically mean that slaves in the South would be freed as the Union Army advanced (in fact, the EP was celebrated by many Black people), essentially told them they were under no obligation to remain loyal to their masters, and it did pave the way for black men to join the Union Army and become some of the best fighters a general whose name unfortunately escapes me ever saw.
- Theologically speaking, it appears the author is of the dispensationalist view but after looking it up, I discovered that dispensationalism didn’t reach America until after the Civil War.
I’ll concede that the South did have some points and that the North did have its fair share of wrongdoing, but that’s it. I cannot in good conscience bring myself to support the South’s reasoning nor can I agree that the North was solely responsible for starting the war.
BOTH sides were responsible. BOTH sides were right and wrong. You cannot pin all the blame on the North and ignore the South’s part and vice versa. That is a gross distortion of history.
As for recommending these books, I’m not sure I can do that either, if only because of how Black people, whether slave or free, are depicted. It’s one thing to depict how they were treated by others in that specific time period; it’s another entirely how you yourself depict them as the person they are.
We who are Christians ought to portray our fellow human beings in a respectful manner, no matter the historical period we are writing about. It did not come across that way for me in these books, and for that reason, I cannot personally recommend them. I’m not sure I could give it any sort of star rating either.
If you still want to read them, go ahead. If you’d like more information that ventures into spoiler territory, just message me.
*That is, I can’t recollect that latter instance. Perhaps it is there and it flew over my head, which I wouldn’t doubt; I did read half of each book late into the night till my eyes glazed over…
Edit: Also, President Buchanan isn’t mentioned, despite the fact he had tried to send supplies to Fort Sumter (if I remember correctly, the secessionists forced the ship to go back) before his term as president ended. Plus, he opposed secession but also believed he couldn’t do anything to stop it.