Prelude to War: Bloody Kansas
by Neil Gillis

"'Remember me? You should. I sent two of you bastards to hell and now it’s your turn!'"

Zeke Evers is only thirteen years old when his life is changed forever. He is a simple boy content to work on his family's farm. The world's larger problems seemed far away and not relevant to him. Unfortunately, Zeke lives in Kansas in the mid-nineteenth century, and his father's outspoken views about freeing the slaves make him a target for the Missourian Red Leg militia. When the Red Legs murder Zeke's entire family while he is away at an auction, he settles on revenge as his desired outcome. He murders two of the men responsible immediately before lying low and then signing up with the Kansas Jayhawks to finish the fight. As the Union threatens to crack under the pressure of this crucial issue, Zeke has decided which side of the battle he is on before being fully grown. The only question is whether or not he can survive.

The framework of this book provides the best of both worlds, offering up an entertaining narrative as well as an education on history regarding a subject that often is presented as a minor detail or not at all. The scenes of action and the lively dialogue between the characters from all walks of life hook the reader and keep them invested in a way that a dry, academic text simply couldn't. Zeke's story is so challenging and fraught with peril that readers will periodically need reminding how his leadership and drive obscure his age and physical immaturity. Fans of Civil War history will jump right in and recognize the ideas and references put forth by this story. However, a knowledge of U.S. history is not required for enjoying what is on its own a very entertaining and engaging story.

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