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47    by Walter Mosley order for
by Walter Mosley
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Walter Mosley's 47 is something quite unusual for this well known author of noir mysteries - a historical fantasy that explores the evils of slavery. We first meet the hero as a fourteen-year-old boy in 1832 on the Corinthian Plantation, looked after by Big Mama Flore. The Master of the plantation is Tobias Turner and his cruel overseer is Mr. Stewart.

As the story begins, the 'black-skinned, nappy-headed' boy has an encounter with his Master's pretty daughter, Miss Eloise. He's judged old enough to be moved to the slave quarters and work in the fields, picking cotton. He's branded with the number 47 by a cruel fellow slave, but protected as much as possible by Champ Noland. In the fields he works with 'a big angry, black girl', named Eighty-four. The slaves are chained at night. Forty-seven despairs until he meets Tall John in the woods. It turns out that his new friend came from another world, of 'red skies and floating lakes', to enlist the boy in a battle for the universe. Tall John tells 47 often 'Neither master nor nigger be'. He has great powers (though they are constrained), educates the boy, shows him wonders, and warns him of the evil 'Calash', whom he must defeat.

There is violence and horror, as well as a transfer of power and knowledge. The book ends with the boy foreseeing more battles to fight, but telling us that, for some 'there was happiness and freedom at the end of the trail.' I hope that Walter Mosley will tell more of 47's unique story.

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