Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review: "Sinful Folk" by Ned Hayes (HFVBT)

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I said yes to being on this tour for basically one reason, reading this books blurb reminded me of one of my all time favorites "In the Company of Liars" by Karen Maitland. I was pleased when I flipped open the cover of "Sinful Folk" and found a little praise blurb from Karen herself! That's how I knew I was in good hands with this book. 

I always appreciate a book set in the middle ages that is honest. Not everyone was a member of some great wealthy family with trunks of clothes and servants and ate fine food in big dining halls. Far, far, far more people were living in terrible conditions, barely scraping by, and were filthy. This book pulls no punches by showing that these people live tough, dangerous lives. Especially if you are a woman.

This book starts with a bang, a mysterious fire has started in a home in the village and 5 of the village's boys are killed. Our narrator, Mear, has a son named Christian among the dead. Mear is inconsolable, and joins the other fathers of the murdered sons on a journey to London to seek justice from the king. This will be a very dangerous and long journey because they are traveling out of their village without the regional ruler's permission and the roads are full of bandits and assorted bad guys on the prowl for the unprepared and unprotected. (They also load up all of the bodies on a cart and pull them along. Which is kind of gross, and weird. But okay.It's not like they could take forensic pictures for proof or anything. And it's winter so everything was frozen.But still.)

If you asked one of Mear's traveling companions for a description of Mear they'd say something like "Uh, quiet? Keeps kinda to himself?" The truth actually is that Mear is a woman named Miriam, and is only pretending to be mute. She (and baby Christian) came to their village at a time where their lives were very much at risk Mear took on that disguise for their safety. (I couldn't pretend to be mute unless my life REALLY depended on it. I know one day I'd drop something heavy on my foot and be like "SON OF A" and the jig would be up!) So anyway Mear has more self control then myself and she has been living this way for a long time. As she travels with her companions she has a lot of things in her mind. Most importantly: who killed these boys? But also: now what do I do? Is someone going to find out my secrets? (Because Mear has a lot of those) Can I ever come out of hiding?

The group encounters all kinds of trouble and baddies on their way and Mear's past is brought front and center! I liked this book because of what I mentioned before, the middle ages is not pleasant and they make no bones about showing it. The story kept pretty interesting considering most of the time it was a bunch of men (and one woman) with a cartfull of 5 dead teenagers on the road to London. It's liked a middle ages road trip buddy comedy! (Just kidding). 3 stars from me!

About the Author

Ned Hayes is the author of the Amazon best-selling historical novel SINFUL FOLK. He is also the author of Coeur d’Alene Waters, a noir mystery set in the Pacific Northwest. He is now at work on a new novel, Garden of Earthly Delights, also set in the Middle Ages.
Ned Hayes is a candidate for an MFA from the Rainier Writer’s Workshop, and holds graduate degrees in English and Theology from Western Washington University and Seattle University.
Born in China, he grew up bi-lingually, speaking both Mandarin and English. He now lives in Olympia, Washington with his wife and two children.

Praise for Sinful Folk

In December of 1377, five children are burned in a suspicious house fire. Awash in paranoia and prejudice, the fathers suspect it is the work of Jews and set out to seek justice from the king, loading the charred bodies of their boys onto a cart. Unbeknownst to them, among them is a woman, Mear, who has been hiding out in the town for the past 10 years posing as a mute man. It is a treacherous journey, for their rations are spare and the weather is brutal. And always, they are haunted by the question, Why were their boys in Benedict the weaver’s house, and who would do this to them? Mear, ever resourceful, not only watches for clues to unravel the mystery but also provides invaluable aid in finding their way, for she has traveled this way before and is the only literate one among them. The reason for her false identity is slowly revealed as the villagers are chased by bandits and must overcome numerous obstacles, hunger and fear among them. Brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed, Hayes’ novel is woven through with a deep knowledge of medieval history, all conveyed in mesmerizing prose. At the center of the novel is Mear, a brave and heartbreaking character whose story of triumph over adversity is a joy to read. –Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist *Starred Review*

“A pilgrim tale worthy of Chaucer, evocative, compelling and peopled with unforgettable characters artfully delivered by a master storyteller.” – Brenda Rickman Vantrease, bestselling author of The Illuminator and The Mercy Seller

“Brilliant, insightful, unflinching and wise. This spellbinding mystery will keep readers turning pages until the last sentence. Remarkable.” – Ella March Chase, bestselling author of The Virgin Queen’s Daughter and Three Maids for a Crown

“Suspenseful, page-turning mystery of a mother pursuing the truth… Every reader will come to love the brave and intrepid Mear, a most memorable character in a most memorable story.” – Jim Heynen, award-winning author of The Fall of Alice K.

“Sinful Folk is a work of art. Miriam’s story is a raw and brutal and passionate tale, but her story touches the reader because it’s a timeless story – a wonderful portrayal of medieval life. Highly recommended.” – Kathryn Le Veque, bestselling author of The Dark Lord and The Warrior Poet

“A suspenseful and mesmerizing tale full of rich and vital characters. Ned Hayes crafts a narrative that shows a devotion to craft in each word.” – RenĂ©e Miller, editor of On Fiction and author of In the Bones


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