Although Miss Mary Finch's will stated that her slaves were to be freed, the will was nowhere to be found after the funeral, and Miss Mary Finch's brother wasted no time in selling 13-year-old Isabel and her sister to the first available buyers. So Isabel and Ruth are sent to New York City. Life in the Lockton household is very different from life back in rural Rhode Island. For one, Madam Lockton (unlike Miss Mary Finch) is vicious. For another, New York City is smack dab in the middle of the American Revolution.
Within an hour of arriving in the city, Isabel is asked to spy on her Tory owners. It isn't long before she finds herself caught in the middle of what seems like everything and everybody -- but no one, Rebel or Tory, seems to be interested in answering her question: In this fight for freedom, when and how will she gain her own?
Like Octavian Nothing, Chains explores the complexities and contradictions of the American Revolution from a slave's perspective. Chains, though, is a much more accessible read and would also work for a younger audience. The characters -- all of them -- were three-dimensional and real, I didn't feel that anyone (Tory, Rebel, slave-owner or not) was demonized, the situations and choices that Isabel has to deal with and make are never easy ones, and the book itself has a great design. (Pick it up in a bookstore or library and check out the font. Way cool.) It's an extremely tense read, and I was unable to put it down*.
What's odd is that I didn't ever really connect with the characters -- but that, I think, might be all on me. I know that when I suspect a book might be devastating, I have a tendency to hold myself back a bit emotionally. So there's that. Then again, I've never really connected with any of Anderson's characters in her other books, either. So there's that as well. But that didn't detract from my enjoyment, my interest or from my Need To Know What Happened Next.
My only real gripe about the book was the suddenness of the ending. If it had been made clear on the cover that it was the first in a series, that would have prepared me...
*Literally -- I held it and continued reading while I made and ate lunch one-handed!