Ella Wood is a young adult historical fiction story about Emily Preston, a young woman living in South Carolina during the American Civil War. Ella Wood is the name of her home, a property where slaves provide the labour. This book is the first in a series that looks at the many issues raised by slavery and follows Emily’s growth as she comes to recognise the prejudices with which she has been raised. The other theme explored in the book is that of female emancipation, and the skilful handling of both these themes is the reason why this is a book that all young adults should read. It’s also extraordinarily well written and edited, a real joy to read. As in only the best of books, each word is in the right place, no word is unnecessary and the beautiful prose flows in such a way that we are drawn right into the story , s much so that one forgets one is reading. For me that is the mark of truly superb writing.
For this and the entire series, all the other elements of excellent authorship are also present: multi-faceted characterisation of complex characters with realistic issues and concerns for their age and time; believable relationships, interactions and dialogue; pacing that keeps moving but allows plenty of time for character development; deep classic themes and historical perspective, and, of course, a strong plot with clear character motivations and convincing responses.
The story includes romance and adventure, but is, above all, a coming of age story. At the end of book one, I felt I knew Emily well and I read the other books immediately afterward because I wanted to follow this character to the end of her story.
This is an accomplished author. I highly recommend the whole series. 5 stars.
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