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A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January) Mass Market Paperback – Jul 1998


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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Books; Reprint edition (July 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553575260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553575262
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 2.2 x 17.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 310,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Barbara Hambly's first Star Wars novel was the New York Times bestselling Children of the Jedi. Her other novels range from high fantasies to historical mysteries to vampire tales. She holds both a master's degree in medieval history and a black belt in Shotokan karate. A multiple Nebula Award nominee, she has also been president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She lives in Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Burnett on 15 Jan. 2003
Format: Hardcover
At first, it is difficult to understand what Barbara Hambly was attempting with "A Free Man of Color". Typically, when an author chooses an historical setting, he or she is doing one of two things, bringing light to the past through the artifice of fiction or revealing the present through the veil of the past. If Hambly was doing the former, she did a fine job of evoking old New Orleans.
The book takes place during a time when The City That Care Forgot was losing her tenuous grip on her past and becoming a unique product of American industrialism and European traditions. The Civil War was still thirty years in the future and New Orleans, for all the destruction and disease she had seen, for all the blood spilled in her streets still had an air of innocence. This is the story of Benjamin Janvier, recently widowed and returning to New Orleans after 16 years in Paris. This places Benjamin in the unique position of being able to contrast Paris, with it's lack of color distinctions, and New Orleans, with it's infamous "Code Noir" - the well-defined laws governing the behavior of "colored" people and their interaction with the French settlers, or Creoles. This also places the reader in the position of comparing the treatment of blacks in Janvier's day and their treatment today, which makes this something of the latter of the above kinds of novels. Is Hambly trying to tell an engaging and accurately detailed story set in the past? Or is she trying to poignantly underline current wrongs by speaking to us through the past? I'm not sure she is certain which story she wants to tell, which puts the reader in the awkward position of trying to figure it out for themselves.
Ben, a surgeon in Paris but, due to prejudice, unable to practice medicine in New Orleans, makes his living as a pianist.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Jun. 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Barbara Hambly brilliantly recreates the world of free blacks in Louisiana in the 1830s--a unique, dangerous society. Her hero, Benjamin January, a free man of color returned from Paris, lives a cat-and-mouse existence, constantly threatened with enslavement. His sister and her friends make their living as placées, socially recognized concubines. Murder is a complication none of them can afford. Hambly, well-known as a fantasy writer, turns this real-life background into something rich, strange, and haunting. You will not forget this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 July 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is a very well crafted book. The words and sentences flow beautifully. I loved the previous book, and was ready to love this one also. Fever Season was slightly disappointing. This book isn't as rich in detail as the first book. Ms. Hambly does not spend the time describing the societies and people, or developing her main characters, that she did in the first novel. I missed this. She does describes clothes and architecture vividly. These aren't merely a cosmetic detail, but are crucial parts of novel. Its a pity that this book doesn't come in a copiusly illustrated edition.
This is a very good read, but "Free Man of Color" is much better. I strongly recommend reading both books, in order.
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Format: Hardcover
In 1834, after being away from New Orleans for years, French-trained Doctor Benjamin January returns to provide help during a fatal cholera epidemic. Since he is a black man, Benjamin knows that his acceptance by the white community as a surgeon is,at best, tentative and probably will disappear once the current crisis passes. However, of more concern to Benjamin is a second epidemic in which free blacks are mysteriously disappearing, leaving the medical man to wonder if they are being sold on the slave market?
Though he has absolutely no time to spare, Benjamin begins to investigate the second epidemic. However, even that is somewhat sidetracked by the plight of his friend Cora Chouteau, accused of murder and attempted murder of her master and his spouse. Benjamin wonders if Cora could have done the act or perhaps the wife, who had the motive, set a lowly slave up to take the fall.
Talk about an overflowing plate, the brilliant and charming Benjamin needs thirty-six hours a day to complete half his tasks. Yet, in the hands of the talented Barbara Hambly, Benjamin comes across as an ambitious, caring individual who everyone should emulate. The story line of FEVER SEASON is a fast-paced, rising fever that will thrill readers of historical mysteries. The secondary players add a genuine feel to the tale, but it is the 1830's New Orleans social interactions that makes this book and its previous tale in the series (FREE MAN OF COLOR) some of the best fiction available for fans of the sub-genre.

Harriet Klausner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 May 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
When I first saw that Barbara Hambly was moving away from fantasy, I was disappointed. She is one of my favorites. But then I read "A Free Man of Color" and "Fever Season" and was blown away. The characters are rich and the amount of research and work that went into the story must have been massive. She picks you up and puts you right down in 1833 New Orleans.
One thing for sure, you don't go to New Orleans without wondering where it all happened.
Thank you for a wonderful book.
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