The author of City of Refuge returns with a startling vel of race, violence, and identity. The year is 1855. Blackface minstrelsy is the most popular form of entertainment in a nation about to be torn apart by the battle over slavery. Henry Sims, a fugitive slave and a brilliant musician, has escaped to Philadelphia, where he lives by his wits and earns money performing on the street. He is befriended by James Douglass-leader of the Virginia Harmonists, a minstrel troupe struggling to compete with dozens of similar ensembles-who senses that Henry's skill and magnetism could restore his show's sagging fortunes. The problem is that black performers are t allowed to appear onstage, even in Philadelphia. Together the two concoct a dangerous masquerade to protect Henry's identity, and he creates a sensation in his first appearances with the Harmonists. Yet even as the troupe's fortunes begin to improve, a brutal slave hunter named Tull Burton has been employed by Henry's former master to track down the runaway and retrieve him, dead or alive.A Free State is both a riveting chase vel and a searing parable of liberty and its costs. Charged with narrative tension and unforgettable characters, A Free State is a thrilling work by a velist at the height of his powers.