Tuesday Reviews-Day: Hard to Die by Andra Watkins

Please note: this post contains affiliate links. I was also provided a review copy of today’s book.

For someone who was abysmal at history in school, I certainly do like a good history-based story. From the Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George to the Kent Family series by John Jakes, I lap up varying degrees of historical fiction much more readily than I did my AP History book in high school. In fact, had something like Hamilton existed back then, I don’t think I would have needed as many all-nighters as that class required of me.

Being a Hamilton fan, when I was approached with a review copy of Hard to Die, a novel by Andra Watkins based on Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of Aaron Burr who went missing at sea, I was definitely curious enough to accept. I knew the book had elements of speculative fiction and a touch of the supernatural, but I was still expecting a bit more post-Revolutionary War and not being plopped down in Cold War-era America.

That disconcertion aside, I stuck with the story which follows Theo as she travels through a purgatory-like existence in Nowhere owing to her untimely death and unresolved life. She has just so many chances to complete a mission (to aid someone at a crossroads in their life) and move onto whatever waits beyond Nowhere. She’s not a ghost, though, she’s flesh and blood, and the dangers faced are real. She can die (again) in the course of her mission and have to start all over. I thought it was a rather clever blending of purgatory, limbo, and reincarnation in a way I hadn’t read before.

While we get glimpses of her actual history–tidbits of Burr’s other exploits, her son’s death, etc.–most of the time is spent in 1950, at West Point, with a Cadet and former spy, Richard, that is the object of Theo’s Nowhere mission. While entertaining enough and it opens some doors onto intriguing avenues of self-study (the previous volume in this series focuses on Merriwether Lewis, of Lewis and Clark fame, which is a whole ‘nother story and then some), this might almost be better suited for WWII fans than Hamilton fans.

Still, if you know someone who’s into both, it might be a nice gift when combined with a few other choice items. If I were to put this together as a bundled gift, I’d slip in a copy of Hamilton: the Revolution, the Original Broadway Recording (just because we’re fans doesn’t mean we’ve purchased the album yet–I listen to it via Prime Music, for instance), and Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton biography that started it all.

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