Tombstone, Arizona, setting for Blood and Silver, doesn’t sound like a great place for a fresh start. But life in San Francisco, where Lucille and her “ladies” come from, couldn’t have gotten much worse, especially for one of the ladies, Lisette, and her daughter Carissa. Lisette, an ex-Southern Belle, ends up with Lucille after losing everything, except Carissa, in the Civil War. Carissa is determined to get her mother and herself into better conditions in friendly Tombstone.
Blood and Silver’s backbone is its powerful female characters. Most formidable is China Mary, based on one of Tombstone’s actual first Chinese inhabitants in the late 1800s. China Mary helps Carissa to heal Lisette and brokers employment for the enterprising young Carissa. Lucille is more ruthless of a businesswoman than China Mary. Carissa and her new friend Mai-Lin model a devotion to their female elders and to the noble ethics their role models instill.
Like a movie, dialogue and interaction propel the action in this short novel. Characters develop through their differing accents, choice of words and level of impassioned tone. Scenes are set with colorful descriptions of period dress and silver mining practices. The Wild West grabs attention in its wily personalities, harshness and renegade ethos. The writing is appropriate for middle grade readers.
Blood and Silver is a moral as well as an entertaining tale for younger audiences. Through Carissa’s quest for an improved life in a frontier town, history teaches about the timeless benefits of good friends, hard work and family ties.