A dramatic tale loosely based on the life of Cathy Williams, a former slave and the first woman to ever serve in the U.S. Army—disguised as a man with the Buffalo Soldiers, the Black Cavalry that fought Native Americans in the Indian Wars.
You want to use phrases like 'ripping yarn' and 'helluva story' for Sarah Bird’s new page-turner, but that makes Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen sound un-literary. It is, and isn’t—both in the best ways. This sweeping historical fiction spanning the Civil War to post-Reconstruction is nothing if not reader-friendly in a way that seems to call up the very power of the novel itself ... Daughter leaps out as a shared experience between writer and reader as vital as that between movie screen and cheering audience at a Saturday matinee. It makes demands, as does good literature, but also is generous with rewards. Fleshing out a skeleton of facts about Williams’ life, Bird produces a memorable recreation not just of this barely known American hero, but also of the thoroughly racist country in which she both suffered and triumphed.
Sarah Bird misses the mark by a wide mile as she relates the real-life tale of Miss Cathay Williams (the author persists in misspelling her name as ‘Cathy’ throughout) ... Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen had so much potential. The book does do several things right, including the excellent points made about the way black men and women had to live through horrors and debasement, to eke out survival, and of the lies they were forced to tell to the white people they loathed to make it to some semblance of survival. The novel’s battle scenes are properly rousing, and the observations of army life feel realistic and work well, as do the well-detailed difficulties of posing as someone of the opposing sex. But the author falls into several traps when it comes to portraying her black characters as well-rounded people (and is far, far worse at portraying the native American characters who appear later in the text), and sadly, stereotypes permeate the novel. While Cathay almost springs to life as a full-blooded woman, in several ways she comes off as a breathing chunk of cardboard ... worst of all is the love story between Cathay and Swayne, which is instantaneously built and completely ahisoric ... The author seems to want to do nothing more than mill some pulp from their forbidden romance, when Cathay’s story was about so much more.
While few details are known about the real Cathy Williams, author Sarah Bird weaves a sweeping tale that mixes humor, hope, courage, and gut-churning brutality to bring this forgotten character to life and offer a unique perspective on historical events ... Feisty Cathy is impossible not to like although at times she seems to have an almost superhuman ability to endure physical pain ... With astonishing period detail that transports the reader to Cathy’s brutal world, author Bird has mastered an engaging, folksy, narrative voice and a story brimming with clever descriptive gems ... Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen is a unique story told from a unique point of view that shines an entertaining light on an overlooked piece of history.