Heartfire and picks up shortly after the previous story, Alvin Journeyman, ended. This series is based in the early 1800s and follows along a fictional timeline just a bit different from what we know from our high school history books. In this version of America, the Indians control the land west of the Mississippi and the eastern part of the continent is controlled by different factions. In the northeast are the Puritans, who have developed what they would consider a more pure Christian society. In the southeast are the Crown Colonies, the remnant of the British empire, ruled by the deposed English monarch. The remainder of the land is made up of the nascent United States. The land is strongly divided along nationality lines, religious lines, and the ongoing tempest marked by those in the south who support slavery and the growing numbers in the north who want the practice abolished.
The main protagonist is a miller's son who was sent away to apprentice for a blacksmith. Alvin Miller, like most people in the land, possesses a sort of knack that allows him to create things and to alter the basic properties of nature. Many folks might not understand their knacks or even realize that they have them. However, Alvin is a powerful maker, whose skills have not been witnessed in many generations. Alvin is a simple, honest, principled man who believes his power is a gift from God and he believes that he is called to use it to help others. Alvin's destiny was revealed to him by an Indian prophet, who showed him that he was to create the Crystal City. As Alvin has no idea of how to proceed, he wanders the land with a small group of friends trying to understand better his powers and how to use them.
The main story arcs follow Alvin as he battles with the Puritans in Boston over their practice of witch trials and their misunderstanding of the knacks that people have. The other story arc follows Alvin's wife Peggy as she pushes her abolishonist views to help free the slaves within the Crown Colonies. She is desperately working to avoid a devastating war over the issue of slavery, but she comes to realize that war may be the only way to bring this institution to its knees. At the same time she is working to help restore a pure heart within Alvin's brother Calvin. Alvin and Calvin grew up as the closest of friends, but Calvin's soul slowly turned dark with rage, with jealousy, and with pride. Yet it still may not be too late to save him. A powerful story that was quite well written. Now, onto the next part of the story in The Crystal City.