Ashes: The Seeds of America Trilogy, Book 3

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Ashes:  The Seeds of America Trilogy, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Exciting, hopeful end to U.S. Revolutionary War saga.

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Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of detail about daily life during Revolutionary War, especially at a military encampment; the siege at Yorktown, the outcome, the effect on the war; different state policies about Black people serving in the military and granting freedom to the enslaved vs. returning them to those who enslaved them; how women served the army by following the troops, cooking, cleaning, tending to the wounded. Each chapter opens with a quote from real people involved in the historical events of the story. Appendix provides details about real events and policies and provides further reading suggestions.

Positive Messages

Freedom doesn't come on its own; you have to fight for it. Keep yourself open to love, even though there's a risk of heartbreak; closing yourself off from love guarantees sorrow. Sometimes you may feel forced to choose a side, but you can try to find a middle way when neither side seems like a good choice. Lost loved ones stay with you in your heart, always.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Isabel and Curzon endure tremendous hardship, sacrifice themselves for their loved ones, are brave and loyal and work hard to help others and achieve their goals.


Mostly war-related violence. Infrequent injuries and deaths from battles mention blood and screaming but aren't described in detail. One aftermath mentions "bones shattered" and "limbs and bellies torn open." Characters are in peril both in battle settings and from being captured and enslaved. A dead body and bayonet wound are briefly described but not gory. Sounds of guns, cannons, soldiers screaming mentioned but not described. Strewn body parts, dead horses mentioned. A pet chicken runs away and isn't seen again.


Feelings of attraction and affection mentioned. One kiss.


"Piss" as a bodily function, once.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Isabel works in a tavern serving ale, wine, rum. Soldiers drinking their pay and packs of drunken Loyalists mentioned. Characters in peril from an overseer exhibiting drunken behavior. Rum is used to relax an injured man enough to endure suturing without anesthetic; his speech becomes slurred. It's also a reward for troops after battle success. A woman smokes a pipe.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ashes is the final book in Laurie Halse Anderson's The Seeds of America trilogy about the American Revolution. Violence is mostly from military action. Blood, injuries, and the horrors of war are occasionally mentioned but aren't gory or described in detail. Characters are in peril, either from battle or from being returned to slavery. There's one kiss, and feelings of attraction and affection are mentioned. It has a lot of educational value, especially in lesser-known aspects of the Revolutionary War, such as women's roles alongside armies, and government policies and promises about freedom for former enslaved people who served in the war. Isabel and Curzon struggle with choosing sides and maintaining their friendship when they disagree about what to do. Overall, the messages are wary but hopeful about a better future for a brand-new country and for Isabel and Curzon to be able to live in freedom and without fear.

User Reviews

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Kid, 11 years old August 26, 2017

Great Book

This book is really well-written and captivating. It was assigned to me for school, and I expected a really boring book (cuz, you know, it's HISTORICAL) bu... Continue reading

What's the story?

In ASHES: THE SEEDS OF AMERICA TRILOGY, BOOK 3, Isabel returns as narrator. Now 17, she and Curzon, 19, are near the end of their long walk south to find Isabel's little sister, Ruth, who was taken away from Isabel five years ago. Isabel doesn't exactly find what she expects and decides to return home to Rhode Island, where she hopes to buy her own farm and live in freedom. The journey back north finds them right in the middle of the 1781 siege of Yorktown by the Colonial army. Curzon remains loyal to the revolutionary cause, determined that people fighting for freedom are a better bet than the promises of freedom the British army offers. Isabel doesn't think either side cares about people who look like her and would rather leave the whole mess alone. Can their friendship endure if they choose different sides? What good can come from planting the "seeds of America" when you don't know what will grow?

Is it any good?

Laurie Halse Anderson's riveting trilogy comes to a gripping conclusion that's as hopeful and frightening as the end of the Revolutionary War must have been to those who lived through it. Isabel returns to narrate the last installment of The Seeds of America trilogy, and she's admirable and relatable as a young woman struggling to find her place in strange, new circumstances, where nothing is guaranteed and nothing can be taken for granted -- not even bonds of family, love, and friendship.

Tweens and middle schoolers will relate to messages about knowing how and when to choose a side, or when to follow your own path, and about how to open yourself up to the risks that come with loving someone. The plot keeps the pages turning, and the story is richly embroidered with fascinating details about both everyday life and the larger events of the Revolutionary War as it comes to an end. There's also plenty of food for thought about slavery's effect on the very beginnings of the United States, and kids can be encouraged to think about how those beginnings continue to reverberate today.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about choosing sides in Ashes. Both the British and the colonists promised freedom to former enslaved people who fought for them. Why does Curzon believe the colonials? Why doesn't Isabel believe either?

  • Did you read the first two books in the trilogy? Is this how you thought the story would end? Which book did you like best, and why?

  • Why is this book called Ashes? What do ashes make you think of?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and the American Revolution

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