Author: Ray Chen Smith
Genre: Historical Fiction
First Published: 2012
Page Count: 351
Film/ TV Adaptation: No
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Every single page of this thrilling alternative history novel is literary gold.
*More than a few grammatical errors
“It is May 1924. Sixty years have passed since the Confederacy won the War of Southern Independence…” Della and Cece are two runaway slaves who are relying on the almost extinct Underground Railroad to make their escape to Canada and find freedom. Frank McCluey is a bounty hunter for the mob whose job is to track down the two runaways and return them to their vile owner. But Frank experiences a change of heart that has to do with his dislike of his employer, as much as with what has happened to him in the past. Now Frank has to try to help these two women make it to Canada while avoiding the wrath of the mob, who he’s betrayed, a bloodthirsty agent from the Fugitive Slave Agency, and ruthless slave catchers.
A story on its own about runaway slaves can be interesting, but if you throw in the mob and the fact that this story is set in an alternate universe where the Confederates won the Civil War, you have yourself a book that is nearly impossible to put down. The premise is what really hooked me. There are so many books out there about the Underground Railroad but I have yet to read one like Smith’s that looks at the organization after the Civil War with a Southern victory. Another great discovery was that all the main characters in the book are well-developed with their own mysterious backgrounds; learning about their past becomes a thrilling side story in and of itself. And as if that wasn’t enough, every chapter throws action scenes and plot twists at you that move the story and don’t feel like they are just trying to keep the reader’s attention. The story just flows together so perfectly that each cliffhanger really does make you question if the characters will make it out alive of the next car chase or shootout.
My one and only qualm with the book were the grammatical errors that kept popping up. For a self-published author it can be difficult to catch that kind of stuff since they don’t have the resources that the publishing industry has. However, you do need to be on top of your game when it comes to cleaning up your story if you’re going to self publish and there were a bit too many errors for my taste. However, I really had no other negatives in regards to this book. If a story can get 5/5 stars on its review then clearly the issue of grammatical errors is one that can be overlooked.
I was really blown away by how much I enjoyed this book. I feel bad even mentioning the grammatical errors because I have so much respect for a self published author who can create brilliant work like this without the help of a publishing house. The Jazz Cage is definitely a must read and I hope everyone checks it out. If we’re lucky, hopefully the literary world will be seeing more from this talented author.
*I received a free copy of this book for this review from the author.