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The Fire Trilogy #1

Touched with Fire

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Touched With Fire is a novel of the Civil War inspired by the true story of Ellen Craft.

Ellen Craft is property, in this case of her half-sister Debra, to whom she was given as a wedding gift. The illegitimate daughter of a Georgia plantation owner and a house slave, she learned to hate her own image, which so closely resembled that of her father – the same wiry build, the same blue eyes, and the same lily-white skin.

Ellen lives a solitary life until she falls, unexpectedly, in love with a dark-skinned slave named William Craft, and together they devise a plan to run North. Ellie will pose as a gentleman planter bound for Philadelphia accompanied by his “boy” Will. They make it as far as Baltimore when Will is turned back, and Ellie has no choice but continue. With no way of knowing if he is dead or alive, she resolves to make a second journey—South again. And so Elijah Craft enlists with the 125th Ohio Volunteers of the Union Army. She will literally fight her way back to her husband.

Eli/Ellie’s journey is the story of an extraordinary individual and an abiding love, but also of the corrosive effects of slavery, and of a nation at a watershed moment.

Debut author CHRISTOPHER DATTA is no stranger to civil conflict or the still-extant scourge of slavery. Most recently the acting ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan where he helped end a war in April of 2012, he has spent a distinguished career moving from one strife-torn country to another, including Lebanon, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. A lifelong student of the American Civil War, his research for Touched with Fire is exacting and based in part on a true story.

384 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 2013

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About the author

Christopher Datta

11 books14 followers
Debut author CHRISTOPHER DATTA is no stranger to civil conflict or the still-extant scourge of slavery. Most recently the acting ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan where he helped end a war in April of 2012, he has spent a distinguished career moving from one strife-torn country to another, including Lebanon, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. A lifelong student of the American Civil War, his research for Touched with Fire is exacting and based in part on a true story.

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5 stars
49 (25%)
4 stars
76 (39%)
3 stars
44 (22%)
2 stars
18 (9%)
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7 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 42 reviews
Profile Image for Ezi Chinny.
2,532 reviews414 followers
February 5, 2017
I have mixed feelings about this audiobook. I am so glad the author took on the story of Ellie Craft and weaved an incredible story of heroism. But that is also part of the problem for me, parts of it were just that, unbelievable. The first part of this book was focused on Ellie as a young slave girl trying to navigate and come to terms with where she fit in with her family and community. The second part of the book was so heavy on war facts. I didn’t quite enjoy the second part as much because I couldn’t buy Ellie as union soldier hiding in plain sight so to speak. The narrator’s voice was okay, but the singing parts grated my nerves.

I found the author’s writing to be basic and rough in the beginning, but in the second part of the story, the author found his groove. In addition, the characters in this story under developed and too one dimensional. even Ellie. The slaves, Ellie's sister, even Ellie's actions were either black and white (pun aside). I found the transitions from scene to scene to be uneven. It just didn’t flow smoothly. It got better later in the book.

Ellen was born a “quadroon”, one quarter black and three quarters white. Ellie was born to a half white slave woman who was raped by her owner. The result was that Elle looked white, a fact that made clear her parentage. For most of her young life, Ellie felt angry that she wasn’t acknowledge by her father as his daughter, even though she knew she was a product of rape. Ellie was also angry at her half-sister for treating her like help, and not recognizing her as her sister and perhaps equal. It just doesn’t compute with what we know of slave paternity issues back then. If you were born of a slave, it doesn’t matter if you have white, you were still a slave and almost never acknowledged. The internal musings of why her father didn’t accept or acknowledge her as his own painted Elle as a child who saw herself as more than a slave. This also supports the other slaves claim that Ellie was uppity and thought she was better. Ellie never bothered to deny these assertions, thus incurred the scorn of the other slaves. So, for the first part of her life, Ellie didn’t see herself as a black slave.

When Ellie was barely a young adult, she had a violent encounter with the creepy Reverend. She began espousing views on her blackness that come out of nowhere to me. But this is part of the story I enjoyed most, When Ellie and William become a couple. There was love with this couple and I enjoyed seeing Ellie for the first time show genuine affection, need and concern for someone else. He made her appear vulnerable and more human so I liked this Ellie. Their attempt to seek freedom required Ellie to pass both as a white person and as a man, that’s when things went implausible for me. It’s one thing to for an illiterate slave to pass as a white person, but as a white slave owner and man travelling. There is more to pretending to be a man than wearing clothes. But Ellie pulled it off for six years as Eli where she was fighting, sleeping and leaving among other men. Either way, I couldn’t connect with Ellie as a young girl nor as this cantankerous union soldier. I really wanted to like her because I had empathy for her plight, but she just always came off as self-centered to me.

The ending of this story got predictable but it was satisfying. This subject matter is a sensitive one and I think the author gave the reader a hero to root for. I just would have liked a little more realism in emotion and actions by the characters. I haven’t read the actual account of Ellen Craft because I didn’t want it to color my opinion of this book. I will do so now.

I received this audibook in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Dan Santos.
Author 6 books20 followers
January 10, 2014
I read "Uncle Tom's Cabin" when I was nine. The thing is, we were expats in a foreign country and I read it in Spanish. For the child in me, it was an emotional awakening. Up until that time, I knew precious little about slavery. Reading about it, my heart ached and I often fell asleep crying, holding the book.

When we returned home, I read it again; this time in English. It wasn't the same. Maybe it wasn't the same because I was already familiar with the plot; but in my heart of hearts I believe it wasn't the same because English is more of a factually descriptive language than romantic, emotional Spanish. I was disappointed with Harriet Beecher Stowe's inability to make me feel in English the great emotions I felt reading "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in Spanish.

With exquisite English Christopher Datta colored slavery in an unimaginably painful hue that evoked the first time I read about that scourge of inhumanity. He does it subtly, without drama; evoking a matter-of-fact searing pain that pierces your soul.

Eli's father owned the plantation, Eli's mother and Eli. He owned them. If that doesn't grab your soul and tears it apart, try this for size: he gives Eli as a wedding present to one of his fully white daughters. A wedding present! If that doesn't make you nauseous your spirit has hardened beyond what should be permissible.

The theme may be familiar, drawing from a true story: a slave finds the courage to escape. Yet, a novel is not merely exploiting a theme. A novel is the purest expression of interactive art. It reflects the artistry of the writer's channeling the reader's imagination; allowing the reader to quench his thirst for departing our everyday reality. Christopher Datta adds an emotional dimension to the story; that is, if you are sensitive to human suffering.

Surprisingly for a diplomat with no military service, Chris captures yet another human emotion. He brings out the raw emotion of combat; yes, combat. War is an ethereal concept. Combat is the reality of war. Back in the day, soldiers of my generation used to assert that "War is hell; but combat's a mother f---er."

What do I say to convince you to read this book? You will grow emotionally if you do.
Profile Image for Liza.
116 reviews4 followers
September 7, 2013
I won this book in a giveaway from the Historical Fictionistas.

3.5 stars, but I'll round it up to 4 in this case (I'm usually a round-down-er).

I feel like this book has two parts, the first half is 3 stars, and the last half is a solid 4 stars.

The first half of the book is interesting in that it is based on the true story of two slaves, Ellen and William Craft. I like stories that are based in truth, but the first half of the book is very simply written, almost verging on YA. The portrayal of the characters also lacks complexity in this portion of the book. But, Ellen and William's story is so compelling, I had to keep reading.

As mentioned in the author's note at the end of the book the first half of the book is true to life. But, Ellen doesn't actually join the Union army to fight her way back to Georgia. That part of the book is inspired by other women during that time who the author found interesting. That, to me, almost made the second half more like alternate history. Not a bad thing, but I was a bit on the fence about how I felt about the story not staying true to what actually happened.

The second half of the book is centered mostly around the war, and I felt like the story, and the author, really hit a stride. The writing style was more realistic and convincing, characters were developed more deeply, and I felt more invested in the story overall.

I applaud Datta for writing this story from a woman's viewpoint, and for capturing the complexity of her situation. Kudos for shedding light on an interesting historical character, and for giving an insight to women in the military.

Overall, a very solid read!
Profile Image for Lori.
254 reviews
September 4, 2014
Although the writing style is really good, I find there is too much fiction in this novel that is inspired by the life of Ellen Craft. When reading a book based on, or inspired by, a persons life the major historical details should not be altered. The author does detail this at the end of the book but by the time you have completed the book the misrepresentation has already been done.

When this amount of historical fact is altered I feel the book should not be classified as historical fiction. It should be classified as altered history or simply fiction. The same book could have been written avoiding the use of Ellen Craft as the main character and the deviations from history would not have mattered.

If you are looking for similar historical fiction I would recommend The Kitchen House and The Loom.
Profile Image for Benjamin Thomas.
1,953 reviews272 followers
May 17, 2018
Boy this is one of the hardest ratings I’ve ever had to decide upon for a book review. Part of me wants to award 4 stars and part of me wants to penalize it with a single star.

Allow me to explain.

This book is presented as an historical novel “inspired by the true story of Ellen Craft” as it says right there on the cover. Ellen Craft, for those that don’t know, has a fantastic real life story: Ellen and William Craft were slaves from Macon, Georgia who escaped to the North in December 1848 by traveling openly by train and steamboat, arriving in Philadelphia on Christmas Day. She posed as a white male planter and he as her personal servant. Their daring escape was widely publicized, making them among the most famous of fugitive slaves. Unfortunately, today, her story has largely been forgotten; I know I, for one, had never heard it. It is a remarkable story and ripe for a nice historical fiction adaptation.

Christopher Datta, the author of this book, is clearly passionate about his subject matter. He has crafted a nice story and although there are a few clumsy sequences and the dialogue grated on me from time to time, this reads very well. He develops his characters nicely and his knowledge of the time period makes for an easy confidence in his prose. A solid four-star read.

But then I read the author’s afterward and found out that only the first 25 percent or so of the novel is based on Ellen Craft’s life and adventures. The rest is pure fiction as the author takes his main character on an incredible and dangerous path that remains good reading…just with no basis in actual history. It’s completely made up (although based on other historical people). It made me wonder if anything involving the Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga that took up most of the book was real or fantasy. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love to read alternate history novels but I always know going into them that that is what I am plunging in to. I have always felt that the bond between the author and the reader is sacred. The trust that one builds with the other is paramount and after finding out the real story of Ellen Craft…well, I felt hoodwinked. That sacred trust had been broken. It would be one thing to write a story where Abraham Lincoln becomes a vampire slayer or time travels to meet Leonardo da Vinci. We all know the real story of Lincoln so there is no expectation that what we are reading is pure fiction. But to take a relatively unknown historical figure and take them on a far different path…well that’s pulling the wool over my eyes.

It’s a real shame because Christopher Datta can write. I will say that his afterward does make mention of his own conflict in making the decision he did. I truly wish that message had been imparted up front so I could enjoy the novel for what it is.

So for my rating, I am choosing to take the high road and base it on the actual novel, the writing, the characters, etc. My decision comes down to a single word on the cover: “Inspired”. It does not say “based on the true story…” or “biography of…” but rather “inspired by the true story”. So be it. I have book two of the trilogy and will absolutely read it. I may question just what parts are actual history and what parts are made up, but I will read it.
Profile Image for Claire .
223 reviews17 followers
May 21, 2014
I received this book as a goodreads First Reads giveaway.

Based on a true character, Touched with Fire is the story of Ellen Craft, a woman born in Macon, Georgia to a slave mother and her owner. Despite her white appearance and the fact that everyone knew her parentage, she was nevertheless raised in the family household as a slave, waiting on her half-sisters, and eventually given to one of them as a wedding present. Determined never to marry or have children that would also be slaves, she developed a deep-seated hatred for all white people, and particularly her "family."

She eventually fell in love with William Craft, another slave in the area who rescued her from attempted sexual assault on more than one occasion. They married, and together devised an ingenious plan to escape to the North and freedom. Ellie would disguise herself as a man, and they would travel together under the guise of master and slave. To this point, the story is historically accurate.

Author Christopher Datta has chosen to write the ending of their flight to freedom quite differently from the factual events. In his notes at the end of the book, he explains his reason for doing so: he wanted to address the very real existence of women who disguised themselves as men and fought in the Civil War. A strong woman like Ellen Craft is the perfect vehicle for this. Her strength and determination, both in real life and in Datta's fictional story line, are amazing.

In the fictional version, Ellie goes on to the North, while William is detained in Baltimore because they can not produce proof of "Eli's" ownership. He is eventually returned to Georgia, and is bought by Ellie's half-sister. Ellie continues to pose as a man, and ultimately joins a company of Ohio volunteers for the Union Army, believing this to be her best chance of getting back to William and helping him to freedom.

While I do understand the author's reasons for altering this remarkable woman's story, and having her represent those other committed women who fought as men, I truly believe that the Crafts' true story is even more compelling, since they faced dangers and hardships even after reaching the North. Ellen Craft does not need to be enlarged; she is already a giant figure.

On the plus side, the book flows very well, and the story is exciting. It was always difficult to put it down. The characters that Datta has drawn feel true-to-life, and the dialogue among the soldiers is realistic. My only criticism of the writing is the repetitive mention of Ellie's hatred of all Southern whites. We understand her feelings very well; Datta has done an excellent job of explaining her motivations early in the book, and it seemed unnecessary to repeat her thought process in just about every chapter for almost two-thirds of the book.

I was honestly undecided between three and four stars for this book. It is a very enjoyable read, but I chose to give it three stars because of my feelings about the real Ellen Craft's story, and also because of what I felt was rather stiff, unrealistic dialogue between Ellie and William after they were reunited. But, overall, I would recommend this book for fans of historical fiction and those who are interested in reading about strong female characters.
851 reviews27 followers
June 18, 2015
Ellie is a white woman of African-American and white descent. But all that matters in her Georgia home is that she remember her place as a slave. Her white father never admits her forced himself on her mother and never feels he has any duty to acknowledge his daughter, let alone treat her decently as any father should. She is constantly threatened by the leering looks of her half-sister’s husband, a minister and more men without any morals.
This is the world of Southern slavery. One may decry the dozens of conversations Ellie is forced to listen to while serving dinner or some other visitor, dialogue that is repetitive with the notion of keeping slaves in their place and either beating them violently or selling them if they get out of line. What is so despicable to read was the accepted way of life in the pre-Civil War lives of the South. Revisionist history has no place in this story that is actually based on a real slave. This is the story of Ellie and Will, William Craft, Ellie’s husband.
Ellie and Will dared to do what few slaves would ever do and I can’t recall ever reading a story like this one. For Ellie with her very white appearance disguises herself as a man, the owner of Will, and their goal is to find freedom in Philadelphia. To tell more would ruin an amazingly bold and courageous story!
Suffice to say that they travel but soon realize they cannot make it for a legal reason they had not anticipated. So when war breaks out between the North and South, Will must return to the South and Ellie joins the Union Army, determined to fight her way back to Will and hopefully to freedom for both of them.
Christopher Datta crafts a fine story in which Ellie shows not only grit and perseverance but also reveals her terrible fears. Her skill and her insistence of thinking like a man defy our expectations and enable her to survive so many tension-ridden challenges that one can’t stop turning the pages to find out what happens next. The love she and Will share is lovely to read, a love in which both treat each other respectfully and passionately as equals. This is fine, fine historical fiction and is highly recommended for all ages. It would make one amazing movie as well!
Profile Image for Julie.
49 reviews1 follower
July 16, 2014
I had a hard time selecting the rating for this book. The book was so good and so interesting until I got to the authors notes at the end and realized that once you get past part 1 the only thing "true" about this book is the name of the character. The cover clearly states "based on the true story of Ellen Craft" and that couldn't be further from the truth. I read this book amazed at the story only to feel duped at the end when the author finally let me in that it wasn't really true. If you go into this book expecting a complete work of fiction you won't be disappointed. The story is well written and move quickly. If your expecting an historical piece of literature I suggest you look somewhere else.
Profile Image for Deedra.
3,780 reviews19 followers
February 2, 2017
This was a very interesting and enjoyable read.Ellie craft was a slave.She was the daughter of a white master and black slave.She had white skin.She passed for a white plantation owner to sneak her husband and her self out of the south.With many twists and turns in this imagined rendition of their life,the story has a lot of adventure.It made me curious abut the real people.Hugh Harper was a fine narrator.I was given this book free by the author,narrator or publisher.
Profile Image for Healthda.
290 reviews
February 23, 2018
Loved this historical fiction about a real female slave who was the daughter of the master of the plantation. I learned so much about the civil war and the variety motivations for fighting in the war on both sides. Interesting author background
Profile Image for Judy.
4 reviews
March 21, 2023
Good Conversations

The author did a good job getting inside the mind of the protagonist and making her come to life. Also good insight into the way ordinary soldiers thought. A good read!
Profile Image for Gaele.
4,079 reviews80 followers
August 10, 2016
It isn’t often that I know, going into writing a review, that I will not be able to convince enough people that this is a must-read: for the writing, the history and the captivating characters that will be found within. Christopher Datta has used extensive research and historical facts to present a story that seamlessly mixes fact and fiction to reveal a life that should be a household name, but was sadly lost in obscurity.

Ellen Craft was born a slave, the product of a rape of her mother by the master, as was her mother. Vernacular of the time most pleasantly referred to her as a quadroon, her light skin combined with the dubious benefit of position as slave to her half-sister kept her alienated from the others in the slave community, her skin and her speech had them suspicious of her ‘uppity ways’.

All of that changes when William, slave to a man of substance and a well-known and regarded cabinet maker sets his sights on her. Saving her from certain attack, twice, she opens up to William and shares her fears, hatreds and desires. When they marry and are allowed to quarter in her half-sister’s new home with her husband, their plan is hatched.

Donning the dress and manners of a man, Ellen presents herself as a southern gentlemen farmer with her dedicated slave Billy. Through several nerve-wracking encounters, they travel without discovery to Baltimore, where the lack of papers and Ellen and Willam’s inability to write or read forces a separation. With the aid of a cousin of her former master, Ellen is able to journey on to the free state of Pennsylvania and starts her new life as she plans to retrieve her husband.

The story is cleverly working on two levels: first is the determination that Ellen shows in returning to the Macon Georgia plantation to retrieve her husband. For six years she has masqueraded as a man, always seeking to protect her secrets and focused only on the defeat of the rebel army. Secondly are the details of battle from a first-person view: the sights, sounds, smells and exhilaration juxtaposed against the tedium of waiting or the dangers faced in the camp hospitals, hunger and the sniping between friends and companions.

Told in a series of ‘five sections, each carries a specific tone and setting that build the characters and scenes with smooth progression and allow them to grow and develop as each new challenge appears. The sections also give a sort of timeline progression to the story, giving readers a moment to breathe and relax from the tension that underlies most of the text. This is a gripping read, with several chances to immerse yourself in Ellen’s emotional journey and struggles with her own definition of herself: is she woman, has she adopted too many of the man’s characteristics, will she be found out, can she ever learn to trust in anyone, will she and William ever find one another. It was difficult to distinguish between fiction and fact, and some clever twisting of the timeline and events gave Datta the perfect opportunity to immerse readers into a story from a perspective that is new and fresh. There is a particular dryness to historical fact and history classes, yet the transformation of adding a perspective and character that is intriguing and interesting and giving them the task of telling the story makes it all come alive in ways that only seem possible in fiction. You cared for and hurt with Ellen in her journey, and often were confused by her behavior and selfish disregard for those who only sought to befriend her as a comrade in arms. What you will never be is bored or confused: angry, frustrated, sad and even wanting to see if her wishes come true, Ellen Craft will demand you see her, hear her and feel for and with her on this journey.

I received an eBook copy via Novel Publicity for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility
Profile Image for Patty.
637 reviews42 followers
December 17, 2014
THIS BOOK. It's hard to describe my reaction to this book, because it had parts that were AMAZING and parts that were extremely lackluster. Where to even begin? Okay. It describes itself as "inspired by the true story of Ellen Craft". In actual history, Ellen Craft was a light-skinned slave in 1840s Georgia, who disguised herself as a white man and, along with her darker husband William, escaped to the North. They then moved to England to avoid being recaptured and wrote a book about their lives. In Touched with Fire, Ellen and William begin their escape in the same way, but are separated just before crossing the Mason-Dixon line, with Ellen making it to freedom and William ending up back as a slave owned by Ellen's white half-sister. Ellen then keeps up her disguise as a white man, going by Eli (the author uses masculine pronouns for her whenever she's disguised, which is a pretty interesting choice. I would have liked the book to go even further into playing with gender, but I was surprised and pleased that it went there at all), moving to Ohio, and eventually joining the Union Army with the goal of finding and rescuing William. There were a lot of battle scenes and military history in this section (which I found pretty boring; there's nothing more mind-numbing to me than looking at arrangements of troops or discussing who has the high ground) but also Eli making friends with Ulysses S. Grant, falling in love with one of her fellow (white) soldiers, and an UNBELIEVABLY FANTASTIC scene where Eli reenacts Gone with the Wind with Scarlet O'Hara as the bad guy and Eli (remember, a black woman ex-slave dressed as a Union solider) getting all the good lines:

She turned on him, dark-haired, young and slim with evil green eyes. “You’ll pay for this, you Yankee shits. I swear, just you wait,” she spat at him, her eyes blazing with hatred. “When our boys get done with you, I’ll be wearing your liver for a hat.” [...] And despite everything, despite all the reasons he had for hating her, pity touched his heart. She would never understand the wrongs she had done, and all she would know was that her world was undone and gone forever, gone with the wind. [...] “I hope you die,” she said, low and bitter.
Eli stood smoothing the lapels of his coat. “Frankly, I don’t give a damn what you hope, Madam."

(This scene also includes the line, "I doan know nutt’n ’bout no guns.”) I WAS HOWLING WITH LAUGHTER ON THE SUBWAY OH MY GOD. And then the book kinda ends in a canon OT3! I was iffy about the drastic rewriting of history at first, but when it's in the cause of having your heroine be a badass soldier who excels at killing dudes, hates everybody, and gets a dramatic climax of rescuing her damsel of a husband, I am TOTALLY IN SUPPORT.

I don't mean to praise the book without reservations though, because the writing style could use improvement. It was simplistic, a bit like bad YA, where everything is stated very obviously and there's no subtlety or depth. But come on! I could not love the plot any more than I do.

I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.
94 reviews
March 12, 2021
I'm really glad I read this book. The author has a broad and deep understanding of this period of history. I have followed this book with reading a couple of books he referenced and I appreciate the way he incorporated history into a story . Reading this is well worth anyone's time.
Profile Image for LAWonder10.
951 reviews739 followers
April 25, 2014
This is a tremendously amazing story for all of you who are History lovers! Christopher Datta does an outstanding job in bringing the horrible act of slavery and the Civil War to life... too vivid.

Based on the true story of Ellen Craft makes it even more interesting. Read the story to discover how much is accurate...even better, read my Interview with Christopher Datta on http://rockinbookreviews.com and discover much more about this story and the outstanding author.

Ellie was raised a slave by her biological father, who had raped her mother, and her mother was sold to another within a short period of time after Ellen's birth. Ellen was very white skinned with dark hair. The father insisted on keeping her and raising her as his legitimate daughter's companion. However, Ellie was forever reminded she was a slave and refused education or equal treatment. Rejected by the Negros because of her color and fine hand me down clothes, and not allowed to associate with the whites other than a slave to her half sister, Ellie was bitter and determined to not encourage association with either but to remain single and a slave in her father's house until she could perhaps one day become a free person.

Against all her determination, life happens and she is forced to reexamine her attitude and just as she feels resigned and content, life takes another twist and she, once again, has to make a drastic choice... a choice which leads to many other drastic choices and actions.

The many characters are well-defined and feel very real. The various situations and scenes are vividly portrayed. The title becomes clear a couple of times in the story and is one which captures the reader's interest, as does the book cover. It, also, depicts the story's main crux.

This is a well written and researched historical account. However, I can not give it a Five Stars rating due to the immense amount of profanity. Whether or not that amount of profanity existed among so many noble men, I will not debate. The main jest could have been effectively made without the actual usage of the offensive words which will grossly limit reader's who otherwise, undoubtedly, would have enjoyed the book.
Thus, I still give an honest review with a Four Stars rating of this diverse novel.
*The author sent this book to me in exchange for an honest review, of which I have given.
Profile Image for Ruth Hill.
1,115 reviews637 followers
April 27, 2014
Historical novels based on the Civil War flood the market, but in spite of that, it seems that it is still an often misunderstood time period in U.S. history. Unfortunately, most Civil War novels don't often contribute to the overall discussion and understanding of this time period. This book does not fall into that category! It is fresh, well-written, and painstakingly researched. From the first page, I was immersed in this book. I was even more intrigued when I discovered this was inspired by a true story. While it veers from the original, it is accurate to the period and even contains genuine battles, people, and regiments.

There are no bedroom scenes, but a plethora of profanity is used within the book. While I could have done without that, all profanity is used as it would have been back then. It is my position that the author has included it to give even more realism to the story. For the most part, I was able to overlook it.

The thing that struck me the most was the treatment of slaves and half-slaves. I made the comment to my mom that too many modern African Americans have no idea what a tremendous price was paid for their freedom. It did not begin with MLK; it is a battle that has claimed countless lives and is still being fought to this day. I cannot begin to fathom what horrors were experienced by innumerable silent martyrs.

I was vaguely familiar with the fact of women disguising themselves as men to serve in the War, but this book gave a face to this fleeting trivia. Again, had brave men and women not died for our country, it boggles the mind to even conceive of where we would be today!

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not financially compensated, and all opinions are 100 percent mine.
Profile Image for Rubina.
Author 16 books85 followers
April 29, 2014
Read the full review at The Book Club

I found this story very unusual. It is not only a story of slavery and desperation but also of bravery. To survive in the US Army dressed as a man, and her colleagues never came to know that she was a woman is itself a big feat. There are many nail biting instances in the story. Every moment I thought that now she will be caught – she rose like the Phoenix from the ashes and faced a new challenge with equal boldness. Ellie is not the typical heroine kind of girl – she has many faults too. Judgemental, selfish and to some extent lost only in her own problems. But that is what made her humane. Just like you and me.

The most unusual thing about this story which I found is that Ellie has been addressed not only as a she but also as a he.

From the point when Ellie becomes Eli – the author continuously describes her as a He, just to prove that this is what she trains herself to think.. Maybe, if she herself would have even thought of herself as a female, she would not have been able to survive six years pretending to be a man in the US Army.

I could go on and on in this review regarding Ellie - I am so impressed with her. But, I leave it to you readers to form an opinion about Ellie and find out whether it is justified to immortalize her.

But why the 4 stars? It would have been much better if this story would have just been a fiction and not a suggested biography. Of course, this is my personal opinion and you as a reader might differ.
Profile Image for Anna Tan.
Author 27 books162 followers
January 27, 2015
I found Touched With Fire an interesting read. I don't read much historical fiction and was a little disappointed when I found out that the second half of the book was entirely fictional, although it was still based on real life events that happened to other people (just not the Crafts). The book was on a whole a breeze to read through. I suppose, being far removed from the Civil War or anything American (other than what I read), I wouldn't be the best person to give comments about authenticity or stuff like that, but I'd just say that I felt it was quite a realistic read.

I liked the voices that Datta gave to both Ellie and William Craft, and the way he contrasted them against the Collins and the White society as a whole. In most books we only see one side of the story, and the way Datta shows both in Touched With Fire serves to play up the conflict between the two. It is this contrast in the way that the Collins think of Ellie and the way she sees herself that makes you stop and think about the way we think about people of other races even now. It's sad to know that we still tend to have that same kind of reaction to people of other races, as if just because they have a different skin colour than ours, they are somehow "less" in some way, especially if they are not as successful as a society.

p/s The actual story of William and Ellen Craft here: http://jezebel.com/ellen-craft-the-sl...
Profile Image for Patsy.
615 reviews2 followers
August 17, 2016
This is a true story of Ellen Craft until about 2/3 of the book, then the author changes history at the end of the book with a fiction story. Not so good.

The story is about a plantation owner that has sex with a black slave, the child that is conceived is born a white girl named Ellie but is still a slave, she falls in love with a black slave man named William Craft and marriages him. The two tries to escape slavery and goes North. Ellie/Eli poses as a white man Eli taking her slave Billy (which is her husband ) with her up north to see a doctor.

Everything goes fine until the very last leg of the trip. The authorities take her husband Billy because he has no papers giving him permission to leave the plantation in the South. Due to Ellie's white skin she did not need papers so they get separated and she becomes a free slave in the North and joins the Union soldiers in the Civil War dressed as a man. She stays in the Union Army until the end of the war still posed as a man looking for her husband.

It's a good story but at the end of the book the author admits she changed the ending of the story to fiction which I found a little disappointing because I don't know what really happen to Ellie/Eli or William/Billy.
Profile Image for Sabrina.
564 reviews2 followers
July 15, 2013
Ellen (Ellie) Craft is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy plantation owner and a house servant. Ellie serves in her father’s household but is not acknowledged as a daughter or sister. Unfortunately for Ellie, she is also not accepted by the other slaves in the community as they think she looks down on them. Ellie is distant, but not for the reasons people think.

I immediately felt for Ellie. She was a resolved, hardened woman, but completely and utterly alone. Tormented from every angle, she actually hoped to die to avoid living the life she had. When Will enters her life, I was jumping for joy. I loved him from the first moment. A voice of reason; he exuded the quiet strength and devotion Ellie was lacking. She needed him in her life and I’m glad she finally realized this.

please read the rest of my review at http://romantichistoricallovers.wordp...
Profile Image for Margaret Tidwell.
610 reviews7 followers
April 16, 2014
From the minute I started this book right up until the end of the book. I haven't read a book like this before in the aspect that it is from the slaves point of view and it was an amazing change in perspective for me. I also can't wait to check out more books by him. I loved how Ellen was white but because of her mother she was treated as a slave. The one part this sticks out to me was when there was a woman visiting from the north and she didn't understand why Ellen was treated as she was even though she was white. For me that sticks out because it breaks my heart to know what other people will do to people because of their skin color. Anyway this is a great historical fiction part and I would recommend it to anyone.

FTC:I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
17 reviews
September 28, 2014
I received this book for free from a goodreads giveaway. Although I am a fan of historical novels, when I started reading this I thought there was going to be too much of a romance element to the story for my liking. This was not the case as the story concentrated more on the characters themselves rather than the romantic links between them. It is set in civil war era America and tells the story of a slave girl and her escape from captivity. Although based on a real person, the author has combined several tales of the civil war into one fictional account. It is very well researched and really highlights the harsh treatment of slaves at this time. Not exactly light reading, but, definitely worth the effort.
Profile Image for April.
2,117 reviews34 followers
January 15, 2017

Touched With Fire
: Christopher Datta

I choose to treat this as totally a historical fiction even if some of the characters were real. Ellie/ Eli Craft an escaped light skinned slave escaped the south and spends years trying to rescue her husband William. The story follows as she transforms to Eli a white planter fighting for the north. It gives the listener an inside view of the horror of the Civil War.

The narration was well done.The characters were well portrayed by Hugh Harper.

"I was voluntarily provided this review copy audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator."
Profile Image for Jackballoon.
265 reviews
February 14, 2016
Received this book from goodreads! Thank you. I enjoyed the book. The war scenes were well done, I learned more about the battles, etc. Ellie or Elijah was well developed, and her attitude is understood. I was very surprised, and disappointed when reading the authors notes at the end. Not to give a spoiler, I wasn't expecting that.
Profile Image for Patricia Gilliam.
Author 43 books24 followers
September 2, 2016
I won a paperback edition in a contest and read it in two sittings. Great job on character development and setting, and the action and pacing builds over the course of the book. I would read and buy other books by this author and hope he does more with this genre. I think it would be great reading for young adult/high school level history classes, too.
Profile Image for Chuck.
446 reviews1 follower
July 7, 2014
This is a terrific read that goes far, via fiction, encapsulating the feelings of North and South on the slavery issue during the Civil War. This is more than a book describing war and race. It is a well written, thought provoking piece of a hard to put down novel. It is based on a true character with significant liberty in telling her story. I enjoyed both the history and the fiction.
Profile Image for Gwen.
787 reviews3 followers
February 18, 2015
Well written, captivating and capture's the women's point of view during that period of time before and during the Civil War. I love history/historical nonfiction books and this story lives up to that grouping. There were parts of the story that just make you cringe when you think of how the slaves and the women(daughters, wives) were treated. Wonderful story.
Profile Image for Lauri.
811 reviews10 followers
August 15, 2021
An OK story about a mixed-race slave passing as a white man to get another slave to freedom. That part was pretty good. It got far-fetched when she went back south as a union soldier. Parts of it are based on true facts, but none of the last half, I don't believe. It was too implausible to get me caught up in the story.
Profile Image for Barbara Wambolt.
10 reviews7 followers
July 30, 2014
t was a good read. I would have liked to read more of Ellen Crafts personal journey but all in all I did enjoy it. I enjoyed the Biblical references throughout the book and
the important part it played in the slaves lives to have the foundation of God to hang onto in moments of despair.
Profile Image for Darlene.
38 reviews1 follower
September 2, 2014
I liked this book a lot and was prepared to rate it 5 stars until I got to the end where author explained how much of the story he changed. It did introduce me to the story of William and Ellen Craft so I read William Craft's account - Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom.
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