The story centers around Maddie Bradford, a spunky tomboyish lass with a photographic memory. Maddie and her father travel to the nation’s capital so that her father can fight for Lincoln’s army. Maddie is left to stay with her stuffy and proper Aunt Salome as her father rushes off to war. Worried about her father’s safety and determined to make her own mark, Maddie soon uncovers a world of secrets, spies and intrigue. And she can’t wait to jump right in.
Maddie joins a gang of Pinkerton spies and uses her powers of observation to help them uncover a Rebel plot to destroy the very army for which her father fights. There is also a love story as Maddie falls for the daring reporter Jake Whitestone, though it often takes a backseat to the drama of runaway slaves, bullet dodging and false identities. The book ends rather abruptly leaving us with more questions than answers, but I know more loose ends will be tied up with the next book in the series. There are many more Rebel plots to uncover and I am sure Maddie is up for the job.
The strength of this book is the heavily accurate historical detail. Singer reports that each character was researched down to the buttons on their shoes. Many lived and breathed during the Civil War. I could smell the gun smoke, hear the cannons in the distance and feel the grit of the city. This makes it an excellent book to educate school-age children. I could imagine history teachers around the country pairing this novel with their lectures on Lincoln and maps of his battle fields. The one sticking point I had was that I never did learn to love Maddie as I should. She was often reckless and rude for little reason that I could detect. She was brave and fearless almost to a fault, but I never got the sense for that deeper goodness we long for in the characters we love. That being said, I am sure Maddie will develop over the series, making her someone we will root for and follow throughout her adventures. The book is definitely worth the read for all you can learn about a turning point in our country’s history and more fun than a History Channel documentary.
You can find Alias Dragonfly here.
You can find Jane Singer here.
If you enjoyed this review, you can subscribe to the Underground or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.