By: Ned Hayes
• Publisher: Campanile Books (January 22, 2014)
Sinful Folk is the new historical novel from Ned Hayes, with cover and internal illustrations by New York Times bestselling illustrator and author Nikki McClure. Like Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent and Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders, Sinful Folk retells history from the perspective of a forgotten woman who finds her voice. An inspiring story of tenacity, perseverance and courage,Sinful Folk is based on real historical events.
In December of the year 1377, five children burned to death in a suspicious house fire. The historical record shows that a small band of villagers traveled 200 miles across England in midwinter to demand justice for their children’s deaths. Two hundred miles. In that time, an unimaginable distance for villagers who lived their entire lives only a few miles from their birthplace.
Sinful Folk is the story of this treacherous journey as seen by Mear, a former nun who has lived for a decade disguised as a mute and fearful man, raising her son quietly in this isolated village. When her son is killed, Mear wakes from her complacent life and undertakes a desperate journey.
The villagers travel across a harsh and unforgiving winter landscape. Propelled forward by a vision of justice, the villagers persevere in the face of bandit raids, ecclesiastical execution orders, starvation, kidnapping, and dissension in their own ranks.
The chief danger lies in their midst: Mear soon discovers that one of her fellow travelers lit the fire that burned the children for his own nefarious ends. Mear must not only uncover the murderer, but also stay alive long enough to reach London, where she can seek the king’s justice.
In the course of this pilgrimage, Mear finds old enemies, forgotten friends and hidden strengths. Mear’s long-hidden intelligence and authority gradually come to the forefront as her gender, her articulate insight and her lineage are unveiled—first to her fellow villagers and then to the world, as she enters the Star Chamber and, in the end, presents her case before the king’s court. Sinful Folk begins in terror and heartache, and ends in triumph and redemption.
Endorsed by bestselling historical novelists such as Karen Maitland (The Owl Killers,Company of Liars), Ella March Chase (The Virgin Queen’s Daughter), Brenda Vantrease (The Illuminator, The Heretic’s Wife), and William Dietrich (The Barbed Crown), Sinful Folk is a breakthrough novel that stakes a new claim for women’s historical fiction.
Sinful Folk is an inspiring story of a woman’s perseverance and courage in a stark medieval world: a riveting and suspenseful story told with lyrical beauty and unwavering vision. “Every reader will come to love the brave and intrepid Mear.” —award-winning author Jim Heynen (The Fall of Alice K.)
“I must learn to be as the bear in a cage with the stick that pokes it always, through the bars. The bear acts as if the stick is made of air, and takes no notice of it, even when it is sharpened and draws blood. I must do the same.”
This historical mystery grabbed me from the brief historical note at the beginning. Set during the reign of Richard II in 1377, the small village of Duns, England. A tragic house fire takes the lives of five young boys; but the fire is very suspicious. Why were all of the boys at the weaver's house in the night? Why were they locked in? Why did they all have precious possessions with them? Some townsfolk think that this is the work of the Jews. Seeking justice the father's of the boys decide to bring the bodies of their boys to the King to pass judgement. We see the treacherous 200 mile long journey on the dangerous roads through the cold winter through the eyes of Maer.
Maer is one of the best historical fiction characters I have come across. Disguised as a man and a mute since she reached the town 10 years prior with her infant son, Maer has many secrets that she must protect. I felt an instant bond to Maer's character and protective instinct. Since Maer does not speak through most of the story, the writing is mostly through Maer's inner-dialogue and conversations that she hears. This is done in a wonderful and lyrical way. The mystery unfolds slowly and we unravel stories little-by-little. Ned Hayes has definitely woven a gripping tale that will keep you intrigued the whole way through.
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