eBook available: Sybil Chase
After her short novel, Malaeska: The Indian Wife of the White Hunter, launched the Beadle’s Dime Novels series in 1860, Mrs. Ann S. Stephens continued to contribute to the popular line of inexpensive books. Myra, the Child of Adoption followed very quickly as #3 in the series, and a bit later came today’s featured title: Sybil Chase; or, The Valley Ranche, the twenty-first volume in the line.
The stereotype of the dime novel is a fast-paced, action-oriented crowd-pleaser with a convoluted yet shallow plot. With Sybil Chase, Mrs. Stephens once again proves that this pattern did not always hold true. The novel has a somewhat unusual structure, being essentially split into two very different acts and revealing some key plot points in a non-linear fashion. The role of the titular protagonist changes over time and is perhaps not what the reader would initially expect. While there are some significant action sequences, the pace is fairly slow and the writing very descriptive. Finally, as in Malaeska, the narrative contains enough tragic elements to indicate that this was definitely not intended as a feel-good tale.
If you want to check this out for yourself and get a taste of the popular reading options on the market in 1861, the entire book can be read online or downloaded to your eReader at Project Gutenberg.
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