On the heels of the success of Hamilton, Lin Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical about political prodigy Alexander Hamilton, another story about a revolutionary icon has been released. This time the focus is on Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of Aaron Burr, the man responsible for Hamilton’s death.
Hard to Die tells the story of Theodosia’s attempt to escape from the purgatory world known as Nowhere, where she has existed since her disappearance and presumed death aboard the Patriot. Residents of Nowhere are given 13 chances to help people who are at a turning point in their lives. Success allows them to leave Nowhere and make peace with their lives, failure results in a permanent life in Nowhere giving assignments to other purgatory bound souls. Another famous missing person, Richard Cox, the West Point Cadet who disappeared mysteriously in 1950, makes an appearance in Watkins’ novel. Cox becomes Theodosia’s newest charge in her quest to escape Nowhere. Theodosia finds herself assigned to help the West Point Cadet, a former spy who wishes to leave the world of espionage and live a normal life.
Hard to Die was no doubt an interesting take on two mysterious stories, but at several points throughout the novel it felt a bit like there was too much going on. Superfluous characters like Meriwether Lewis, were added almost, it seemed, to drive home the point that this was a historical novel. But the extra characters had little to no depth and were just kind of there. Their presence slowed the trajectory of an otherwise fast-paced book down.
However, one thing Watkins does do well is get you interested enough in Theodosia to root for her to the end. The parts of the book that focused solely on Theo and her relationship with Richard are easily where the story shines. Although the ending of this novel may not be what readers desire, it leaves room for more to happen with Theo, Richard and many of the book’s other characters be it together or separately. I’m not sure at this point if Watkins intends to release a direct sequel to Hard to Die, but this offering has intrigued me enough where if she did, I’d read it.