Full of vivid details and fraught with the constant tension… A fascinating read.
Smith’s richly drawn latest delves into the mystery of the lost Confederate Treasury during the US Civil War, offering a fictionalized version of the story. It’s 1865, and the American Civil War is drawing to a close. The midshipman Yancey Arvindale is the member of the unit assigned to guard the train fled from Richmond, Virginia, carrying the Confederate Treasury. When, by chance, the opportunity arises for him to siphon some of the gold for himself, Yancey has no qualms doing so. Of course, the plan doesn’t go smoothly, leading to an unfortunate incident. Soon, Yancey finds his path crossed with Ellie, a runaway slave, who has nothing but contempt for him. Alternating between different time periods, the story moves back in time after the initial few pages, and the reader learns what happened to the lost gold. Smith paints a vivid portrait of the time: the period details of the Civil War era give the story an intimate sense of place. He constructs the narrative structure with great skill, weaving several storylines from different timelines together and fitting them perfectly into a single piece. The tension stays ripe with plenty of suspense in the background, and the characterization is drawn with great depth and complexity. The narrative convincingly renders deeply rooted insecurities and conflicts among various characters, and it is fun to watch two resilient young characters with different backgrounds, race, and very different views on life. Yancey is the perfect mixture of depth and passion whereas Ellie inspires with her strength and resilience. Their stories make for a stirring testament to resilience of two young people who never knew the meaning of the word quit. At the same time, Smith also explores several weighty issues such as race, slavery, humanity, religion, compassion, and how a person copes or fails to cope when the fate turns hard against them. Smith delivers a well told story with deeply realized characters, but it is his eloquent prose and the assured storytelling that elevates the novel further. The greed, deception, and betrayal abound in the story, but they are skillfully counterpointed by compassion, loyalty, and trust. The satisfying, neatly resolved ending is flawless. Smith skillfully incorporates the historical context into the narrative, making the novel a valuable addition to American Civil War literature. With its clever, immersive storyline and expert execution of the plot, the novel is sure to enchant lovers of historical fiction.
In the Shadow of Gold
By Michael Kenneth Smith
Pub date December 1, 2020
Price $7.77 (USD) Kindle edition, $14.99 Paperback
Categories: Historical fiction