Hidden Light of Northern Fires The Hidden Light of Northern Fires is a novel rooted in the remarkable but little-known true history of the only secessionist town north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Mary has always been an outcast, an outspoken abolitionist woman in a town of bounty hunters and anti-Union farmers. Helping runaways is the only thing that makes her life in Town Line bearable.

When escaped slave Joe Bell collapses in her father’s barn, Mary Willis must ward off Confederate guerrillas and spies, Joe’s vengeful owner, and even her own brother to help the fugitive cross to freedom.

As the countryside is riled by the drumbeat of civil war and the promise of an extravagant bounty for the wounded fugitive, Mary finds herself drawn to the stranger in forbidden ways. When rebels cross from nearby Canada intent on killing him, they bring the devastation of the brutal war to the town and the farm and threaten to destroy all that Mary loves.


With rich, colorful strokes, Wang paints a diverse gallery of characters who ring with credibility as the reader acknowledges the flaws of the best and pities the weaknesses of the worst. ―Richmond Times Dispatch

Wang dazzles as a literary craftsman in “Hidden Light.”―Mississippi Clarion Ledger

The Hidden Light of Northern Fires is splendid—a distinctive clear-eyed perspective on a fresh corner of the Civil War.  The characters are fully alive, wonderfully varied, and the narrative voice is particularly lucid, in sharp contrast with the raving bloody madness of that dark moment in American history. ―Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain and winner of the 1997 National Book Award

Deeply imagined and gorgeously written, the novel’s beating heart is Mary Willis, brave, fallible, and wholly a product of her time. Wang’s debut will stay with you long after you turn the final page, and it’s perfect for book clubs; you’re going to want to talk about this one.” ―Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants and At the Water’s Edge

“In this fine novel, Daren Wang compellingly depicts the darkness of our country’s greatest era of strife, but he also finds courage and love. The Hidden Light of Northern Fires is a wise and timely book.” ―Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena and Above the Waterfall

The Hidden Light of Northern Fires is a powerful and important novel about a lost piece of American history.” ―Natasha Trethewey, United States Poet Laureate, 2012-2014, author of Native Guard, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize

“I will carry this story of love and vengeance, ruin and restoration with me for a long, long time.” ―Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of gods in Alabama

“An instant classic, The Hidden Light of Northern Fires announces the arrival of a major talent, fully matured.” ―Da Chen, New York Times bestselling author of Colors of the Mountain

“Mary Willis makes Scarlett O’Hara look like a whiney brat. Sure, The Hidden Light of Northern Fires brings to life an astounding lost story of the Civil War, but is also a stay-up-all-night, read-it-in-one-sitting novel that looses the corseted ladies of the era onto the real world.” ―Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City, American Rose, and Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy

The Hidden Light of Northern Fires [is] that rare literary novel that’s also a gripping page-turner – a transplanted Yankee’s answer to Cold Mountain.” ―Josh Jackson, Paste Magazine

“Action packed, taut with tension, and filled with memorable characters, this powerful debut displays the currents of history as they run through one small town, carrying away lives in their wake.” ―Booklist

“A vivid, compelling portrayal of the heartbreaking price exacted for freedom.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Revenge, righteousness, and a desperation for freedom are the spirits that possess the characters of Wang’s first novel…Certainly for Civil War buffs, but readers of modern political fiction will also see some similarities with our present political passions.” ―Library Journal

“Packed with action and enough plot to fill another book, The Hidden Light of Northern Fires speaks to the push-pull friction of independence vs. community and the secessionist tendencies of the American dream.” ―Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Hidden Light works almost like an inside-out version of Gone With the Wind, telling the story of the Civil War from a far different but absolutely parallel perspective.” – Bitter Southerner

“A multi-layered, sweeping tale of family and intrigue ― and a love story ― Wang’s novel raises questions of race and gender and delivers an emotional knockout. The Civil War novel ― think Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind or Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels or Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain ― holds a storied place in American literature and the American psyche. The Hidden Light of Northern Fires aspires to ― and reaches ― that summit.” ―Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Hidden Light of Northern Fires is a wonderful example of creative, compassionate and deeply critical engagement with our history – perhaps a model we all need today.” ―Asheville Citizen-Times

“Wang proves himself an adroit storyteller, presenting readers with that sublime dilemma: whether to reread and savor a paragraph or compulsively turn to the page to find out what happens next.” ―ArtsATL