“Beyond Freedom’s Reach: A Kidnapping in the Twilight of Slavery” by Adam Rothman. Harvard University Press, 2015. $29.95.

Historians tend to view slavery in economic and social terms.

Adam Rothman, associate professor of history at Georgetown University goes beyond the institution itself to tell the very personal true story of Rose Herera, a former slave who fights against all odds to free her children from the bondage into which they were born.

In his carefully researched book, “Beyond Freedom’s Reach,” Rothman tells Herera’s story from her birth into slavery in Pointe Coupee Parish in 1835, through her purchase by several different owners to her final sale to the De Hart family of New Orleans.

As slavery unravels during the Federal occupation of New Orleans, the De Harts flee to Cuba, where slavery was still legal, taking three of Herera’s children with them.

Following Herera’s freedom, she fights an amazing custody case that includes the arrest for kidnapping of Mary De Hart, Herera’s former owner, and a trial that shakes the New Orleans legal community to its core.

In the poignant retelling, Rothman weaves stories of other former slaves and describes the institution of slavery in very personal terms. He tells the story of how one determined woman can overcome her tragic origins and make her voice heard in the highest chambers of the U.S. government.

— Carol Anne Blitzer,

Baton Rouge

“Half the World” by Joe Abercrombie. Del Rey, 2015. $26.

Joe Abercrombie’s latest novel, “Half the World,” is the second book of his Shattered Sea trilogy — Abercrombie’s first series written for teenage readers.

The novel combines Abercrombie’s caustic wit, elements of sword and sorcery, exhilarating fight scenes, and a conflicted romance between the novel’s two protagonists, Thorn Bathu and Brand into a compelling, fast-paced adventure.

Thorn is a killer “touched by Mother War” while Brand is an at-best reluctant warrior, and their adventures halfway round the world of the Shattered Sea and back make for compelling reading for fantasy fans.

The novel is an atypical Norse-inspired fantasy; it is not Abercrombie’s finest book, but it was nonetheless both lovable and fun to this (adult) reader.

Younger readers looking for an adventure wilder than the “Hunger Games” and with a female protagonist more dynamic than Bella in “Twilight” need look no further. One caveat for parents, however.

Abercrombie, whose Twitter handle is @LordGrimdark, is best known for the singularly bleak, mature and cynical prose that characterizes his adult fiction.

Both “Half a King” and “Half the World” might be more mature than some parents prefer — characters die, are sold into slavery, betrayed and (rarely) redeemed. I suspect this thematic maturity might be exactly what some teenagers are looking for.

—Neal Hebert, Baton Rouge