Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wounded Spirits by April W. Gardner (review)

Wounded Spirits by April W. Gardner
Copyright 2010
Vinspire - Historical Fiction
254 pages, incl. discussion questions and author's note

It is 1813. Adela McGirth lives a comfortable life in her family's Georgia plantation. Of the three sisters, she is the calm, level-headed one and pretty enough to have drawn a number of suitors. Till Phillip Bailey set his sights on her, none has even slightly interested her. He's determined to marry her, but Adela is conflicted.

Then, suddenly, life takes a dramatic turn as war breaks out between the peaceful Creek nation and white settlers. When the danger becomes too great, local settlers move into a fort for protection. But, the leader is lazy and disorganized. It's only a matter of time before the fort will fall victim to attack by the Red Stick faction.

Captured by Indians, grieving the loss of loved ones, Adela eventually finds herself starving in the wilderness, facing a dilemma that only God can help her solve.

There is so much more to this book than the brief description I just wrote, above. Wounded Spirits begins from Adela's perspective and then switches to the point of view of a Creek warrior named Totka, who has a gimpy leg and a gentle spirit. Adela is kind-hearted and godly; Totka is loving and only fights because he must. You get a good glimpse of both sides of the tale, which is based on the true story of the McGirth family, some of whom were captured under the guise of becoming slaves by an Indian who was at one time orphaned and raised by the McGirths. Nokose, the former orphan, is brother-in-law to Totka.

After Adela and some of her other family members are captured, apparently the only survivors from the fort, they are treated harshly but Adela learns the language and eventually falls in love. Her father, Zachariah, was away from the fortress to check on the livestock at their plantation during the massacre. Returning to find nothing but bodies -- some unrecognizable -- he assumes his family has been killed and responds by following the army, exacting revenge on the people he thinks responsible.

What I loved about Wounded Spirits:

Author April Gardner has done an amazing job of giving readers a full perspective of this real-life eruption of war between Native Americans and encroaching settlers. She's done such a marvelous job of allowing readers to peer into both camps that it's impossible to take sides. Although it took a while for the story to turn from what seemed to be a romance to an action-packed tale of conflict and violence, once it got going it was hard to put Wounded Spirits down.

There is a tremendous amount of nail-biting action, a slow and believable build-up of interest between Adela and Totka, and excellent character development, all-around. The setting is believably rendered, the emotions right on, the senses well done. You will love Adela and care what happens to her and her family. But, you'll also care for Totka and his loved ones. When there's slaughter on both sides, it's heart-breaking.

I know next to nothing about the time and place, although some of the regional names are familiar to me, but from the author's notes I gather that she did her homework and it shows. There's a definite ring of authenticity to the story.

What I disliked about Wounded Spirits:

You're going to think I'm confused, now, because I've just gushed so thoroughly. But, Wounded Spirits is not perfect. It is slightly rough and reads, at times, like the work of a new writer. Stylistically, the writing is straightforward rather than lyrical. There are plenty of errors that should have been edited out -- mostly misspellings, possibly some typos. But, in the end, the story wins out and its flaws virtually fade into the background.

The bottom line:

I loved this book. I adored the characters, cared for people on both sides and found myself gripping the pages and sometimes wiping away tears. There's a little bit of "hokey" and a lot of Christian reflection because Adela's Christian and it's her faith that gets her through a year of life starving in an Indian camp. While not perfect, the book is nicely balanced between action and quieter internal or daily life scenes. The author gives readers an unbiased look at the two sides of war and the story wins out over the writing flaws. Definitely recommended.

You can read a free chapter of Wounded Spirits, here.

Cover thoughts:

The cover is a little cheesy, but I like it. There is a scene in which the McGirth girls must fight for their lives and an axe is involved . . . and I do think the cover model fits the description of Adela perfectly.

In other news:

I'm pretty happy with my reading, so far this year, and the fact that I'm keeping up with my reviews. But, I realize I still haven't gotten to that 2010 Favorites business. If you saw a mostly-empty 2010 Favorites list pop up in your reader, it's because I got started writing the basic skeleton and then hit the wrong button when I meant to save my progress in draft form. Sorry about that. I'll finish it eventually, but it might be 2012. I hope not.

In the meantime, I've got some recent DNFs to talk about -- why I stopped reading them and whether or not I'll give them a second chance, as always. I'll review The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern, after that, and someday I'll give a Books In/Books Out report, but I've fallen so far behind on that I'll probably only photograph the most recent arrivals. The good news is that Books Out are still surpassing Books In about 2 to 1. Go me.

In case you're wondering:

The Mental Floss History of the United States has been lingering in my sidebar for-freaking-ever because it's written in short sections and I'm reading it in bits and spurts. Still. I've mentioned that, before. I haven't set it aside or forgotten about it. I'm just taking my time reading it. It's a hugely entertaining book and it might take me another month because I want to extend the joy, but I can already tell you I'll highly recommend it. So, just go buy a copy if you like your history handled with levity. It's a very fun read.

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. I appreciate your candid review. Thank you so much!

  2. April,

    You're welcome! I loved Wounded Spirits! Keep writing -- can't wait to see what you come up with, next. I'm guessing a certain someone managed to stay alive after sneaking through a hole in the fence . . .


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