by Sarah Bird
Genres: Historical Fiction
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The compelling, hidden story of Cathy Williams, a former slave and the first woman to ever serve in the US Army
“Here's the first thing you need to know about Miss Cathy Williams: I am the daughter of a daughter of a queen and my Mama never let me forget it."
Powerful, epic, and compelling, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen shines light on a nearly forgotten figure in history. Cathy Williams was born and lived a slave – until the Union army comes and destroys the only world she’s known. Separated from her family, she makes the impossible decision – to fight in the army disguised as a man with the Buffalo Soldiers. With courage and wit, Cathy must not only fight for her survival and freedom in the ultimate man’s world, but never give up on her mission to find her family, and the man she loves. Beautiful, strong, and impactful, Cathy’s story is one that illustrates the force of hidden history come to light, the strength of women, and the power of love.
Today we are welcoming Sophia Rose as she shares her thoughts on the historical fiction, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird. I must confess, she has me curious. Grab a cup of tea and decide for yourself.
Sophia Rose’s Review
A woman born a slave, but the granddaughter of an African Queen, freed by the Union Army, and ends up pretending to be male so she can join the Buffalo Soldiers and go west to fight the Plains tribes. It was well-nigh irresistible when it turns out to be based on the true life woman, Cathy Williams, who was the first to serve in the US Army as a female Buffalo Soldier.
The story starts with the home where Cathy is a slave invaded by General Sheridan and her Amazon-size person being mistaken for a man and hauled off from her mother and sister to work as a cook’s assistant in Sheridan’s army. She sets them straight, gets put in her place, and then she saves Sheridan’s contraband and soldiers with her sharp-shooting skills. Meanwhile, she falls in love with a dying soldier, loses him, and then falls in love again, only to lose this one after the war is over. At this point, she makes the momentous decision to disguise herself, enlist with the Buffalo Soldiers and go fight out West.
I confess that I went into this with mixed emotions. High anticipation was the big one, but I was also wary because I knew my heart would take a hit knowing that this woman would not have led even close to a happy life under such circumstances. I wanted to see her courageously face the challenges, but I was already cringing at those challenges (slavery, dubious freedom, faking her gender, fighting Native Americans… and that was just the beginning). I was right to worry and I got worked up several times on her behalf, but I also was awed by her grit and courage as she did what she had to do. Each time she picked herself up, life knocked her down. And, each time I held my breath thinking she was caught out, fate intervened. Her outspokenness and then her hiding her identity got her in trouble many times, of course.
Life was hard and the book didn’t stint on that which was why the fictional romance made her struggles even more amazing (b/c in realsies the romance didn’t exist and she still did many of her exploits). She was brave and outspoken, pragmatic about doing what she had to do, and also vulnerable. It was tough to read about those awful times of the latter part of the Civil War and then the Indian Wars out west, but also fascinating to learn how the African American soldiers coming out of slavery could go out and fight Native Americans. So much to digest in this one.
I know its always an interesting balance when it comes to historical fiction between what was fact and what was creative interpretation when the facts weren’t there. This one has a big piece that wasn’t fact and I suspect several smaller ones, too. Still, the story flowed well and I was glad to learn about the Buffalo Soldiers and their part of the frontier war, women in this time and war, and this particular woman.
One niggle, and it might have been a choice of cutting details to keep the story flow, but I felt that some description and detailing was left out while other things were detailed closely. Like, in the time out West, there wasn’t the opportunity to get to know the opposite side leaving them these vague hair-raising savages all lumped together.
All in all, I was glad to have read Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen, though it wasn’t light and I didn’t feel it was happy even in the end. I was awed by such a woman and hope more little known courageous people get their stories written. I would definitely recommend this to those who enjoy Historical Fiction set in mid-nineteenth century America.
[bctt tweet=”Do you love historical fiction set in mid-nineteenth century America? Then you will want to #read Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird” username=”kimbacaffeinate”]
Brandee @ (un)Conventional Bookworms
So funny thing…I read this review last week but never finished commenting. Then I got a packet of articles from my MIL (she sends book reviews from the Dallas Morning News to me) and I read a review of this book. And I was trying to remember where I’d already read a review! *face palm* The story behind this story is rather fascinating, Sophia. You might want to see if you can find the article online. Anyway, I’ll be reading this one for sure! I’m thinking of suggesting it to my book club. 🙂
Haha! I’ve done that- stopped right in the middle of a comment when I got distracted and never went back.
Oh that is neat. I’ll look up that newspaper and see if the articles are there.
Yes, this would make for a good bookclub choice- lots of discussion points.
That is really quite horrible. They came out of slavery and then went on to fight native Americans! Sad
Oh yeah. There is a lot in this one that just hurts the heart to read it.
I’m always torn about historical fiction. I mean I feel like if I am going to read historical I want it to be factual. But I have read some very good historical fiction. I am not sure this would be uplifting enough for me. I’m sure I would greatly admire her, but I’m not sure I could bear her not getting happiness or success in the story. Anne – Books of My Heart
I know what you mean. I want a little payoff for all the misery I’ve read in the end. I think that’s why the author inserted the fictional romance in the end part of the story. I like that she did an afterward and explained where she took guesses or deviated to have good story flow then I could see what was the actual and fictional differences.
wow what a powerful sounding tale. Thanks Sophia Rose!
It really was. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days. She was so strong to endure what she did and the real life Cathy didn’t get her HEA, either.
Hey There Sophia and Kimberly, and hope all is well. This story sounds absolutely fantastic,and it’s one I definitely want to know more about. So many things in history that I’m still learning about, and I thank you! Hugs…RO
Doing good, Ro! Thanks for asking.
Yes, it is great when someone digs deeper and pulls out the little known stories that are just as powerful as the famous historical ones in their way. I’m so glad this amazing lady’s story came to light.
Wow! that is one history book I would love to sink my eyes into. I am not really fluent in US history, but such great person. Reminds me of Mulan, except Cathy Williams is Royalty
I’ve been trying to read historical fiction for areas and time periods in the world that I’m not up on, too. It’s been fascinating.
But yes, this Cathy Williams was one strong woman. Amazing story! Hope you get the chance. She was something like Mulan when she did a few of her daring things so she could find her family again after she was taken away from them..
Crystal @ Lost in Storyland
This sounds like a heavy read. That said, I do enjoy a good historical fiction, and this sounds like a great read. Adding this to my TBR!
Oh yes, Crystal! It is not one to pick up when you’re in the mood for something light and fun. 🙂 But’s very good.
Suzanne @ The Bookish Libra
I love historical fiction but haven’t read much set during this time period. I’ll have to check this one out because it sounds so interesting. Great review!
It is definitely an exciting and turbulent time in US History. Hope it is good for you, Suzanne. 🙂
Sophie Rose, thank you for sharing this read — definitely will be added to my “TBR” list!!!
You bet, Angela! Hope you like it when you get the chance.
Enjoyed your review, Sophia Rose! I’m a big fan of historical fiction and this one seems well researched.
Yes, I thought it was neat how she shed light on a little known historical figure. It was a fascinating story, Jonetta.
Do you know much of this was fact and fiction? Just curious, because I think this is on my TBR.
Good question, Amy. The author put an afterword in and I remember her listing a few minor details that were fictitious, but the big one was the final romance when she was in the Buffalo Soldiers. That was fictitious as was the adventure that came with it. So at least a quarter of the story is fiction, but much is not.
thanks! I will definitely read it! especially if you’ve given it 4 cups! I just like to know beforehand which parts to add to really believe or let color my knowledge of history.
Enjoyed the review and I’m glad I wasn’t born during that period of time.
Yeah, no kidding. It was brutal and rough. Makes me appreciate my modern conveniences and the social changes.
I always like a good historical fiction but I don’t read a lot of them I confess
They are not my mainstay, either, Melliane, but once in a while I can’t help but grab it. 🙂
Historical Fiction always makes for a very interesting read, I think it’s powerful and fascinating, exactly like this book sounds. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sophia, it was a pleasure reading your review 🙂
Yes, I agree, Silvia! Good historical fiction can have quite an impact.
Glad you could stop by. 🙂