The author of Strands of Bronze and Gold (2013) returns to both Mississippi and fairy-tale retellings in this Civil War version of “Tam Lin.”
Seventeen-year-old Violet Dancey has recently lost her twin brother to battle. Despite the war, she feels a sisterly connection with Laney, a slave who grew up alongside them. Perhaps that’s why Violet feels compelled to assist Amenze VanZeldt, a free black girl, while shopping in town. The act begins an apprehensive relationship with these Africans, who practice the conjuring spirituality of hoodoo (as opposed to the religious practice of voodoo). In this atmospheric story in which darkness houses mysteries, the VanZeldts seem to glide like shadows rather than walk as humans. Fateful events keep Violet and the eerie family connected, most notably the discovery of a wounded Union soldier. As a secret romance evolves between Violet and this Yankee who makes her question slavery, the VanZeldts furtively heal him. Tension builds as their reasons for keeping the soldier alive become clearer. With rich imagery and imaginative subplots driving the storyline, the loose “Tam Lin” connection doesn’t really arrive until the end. The author is careful not to generalize all African-Americans, offering a wide variety of characters—black and white. With an inexplicable magic of her own, the ever-resilient Violet is a force against the VanZeldts’ deadly rituals.
Far from the typical Civil War romance. (Historical fantasy. 14 & up)