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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Candle in the Darkness by Lynn Austin

Caroline Fletcher always wondered why white people took advantage of black people and forced them to be slaves. From the time she was a little girl to the present, in which she is now a woman, she has never understood why her father, along with many other plantation owners, treated his slaves like animals. But now the country called America, the free country, is at war with itself over this very issue. The North believes that slaves should go free, while the South wants to keep them. As a "slave-lover" in the Southern state of Virginia, Caroline feels torn, especially since her fiancee is now fighting against the North. But her cousin, a Northerner has recently been taken captive in a prison near her, and he wants her to help him spy on the people around her in order to get information for the North. If she ever felt torn between two different beliefs, Caroline feels torn more than ever now, with people dying pointlessly around her. What ultimate decision will she make?

As usual, Lynn Austin has written a historical epic driven by good characters, but which has a slightly typical end. However, Candle in the Darkness is a linear plot rather than a past\present plot. Otherwise, this is classic Lynn Austin fiction.

As usual, Caroline is a superb leading character complete with a well-developed personality. There are many other good characters as well, including Caroline's fiancee, her cousin, her father, her mother, and most of the slaves. There is no true villain, which makes this plot interesting. There is virtually nothing lacking in the character department, as usual for Lynn Austin. She could develop these types of characters for the rest of her writing career and I would be eternally happy.

Candle in the Darkness presents a sad but true situation that occurred in our country's past, one that many wish could be erased from history. Slavery in the South led to many problems we still face today, even though it was eventually eliminated. Lynn does not downplay any of the sins of the Southern plantation owners or sugar-coat the way they treated their slaves. She puts Caroline in an interesting situation: the position of the slave-lover in the South. However, this does not mean she is a perfect victim. To change up the pace, Lynn creates everyday life circumstances throughout the plot. However, when the end looked like it was going to be quite interesting, Lynn backpedaled at the very end to make a few things turn out right. However, this does not completely ruin the plot, and Lynn Austin will get the same old rating again.

Lynn Austin has clearly found her niche in fiction, and there is no reason for her to change things now, when mostly everything she does turns out in her favor.

4.5 stars

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