Author: Dina L. Sleiman
Series: Valiant Hearts #1
Publisher: Bethany House
Release Date: March 2015
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewer: Jessica Higgins
A well-crafted tale of a young outlaw damsel and her band of merry young men and women who try to avoid the wrath of King John in the thirteenth century.
Merry Ellison was labeled an outlaw the day her father failed in a plot to assassinate King John. The village was ordered slaughtered and burned, but not before the children were hidden safely away. Merry was the oldest and had participated in war games and tumbling. She took responsibility as the leader and over the past two years she trained the children as they grew older. They’ve done what they must to get by and their group has been given the name “The Ghosts of Farthingale Forests.” Merry just hopes that the rebellion will be over soon or France will come take control of England so that she can lead a normal life again.
Timothy Grey will never have anything to call his own, or so he believes. Being the ninth child, he knows he will have no property of his father’s. And the woman that he was betrothed to marry was killed in the rebellion. Now he has found employment with a local Earl and has accelerated from the position of scribe to that of the Earl’s personal assistant. When the Earl hears that the “Ghosts” may have moved into Wyndeshire, Timothy vows to capture them for the Earl in hopes of obtaining some land for himself in the future. However, he gets more than he expected when he finally discovers who the ghosts really are.
I’ve always enjoyed the tale of Robin Hood, so it was naturally an easy fit when I picked up this book. The tale is a bit different than ”robbing the reach to feed the poor” as it is more about the survival of the group. The story focuses on the two main characters of Merry and Timothy, who have a bit of history together from childhood. Merry struggles through being a strong leader and removing God from her life and focusing only on the survival of the group. Timothy focuses on God having put a tyrant King on the throne because of the Pope’s ordination of King John. The two characters clash quite a bit and have a romance between them as well.
The book flowed very easily. Sleiman knows how to keep her readers turning the pages to find out what is going to happen in the next chapter. She makes her characters develop easily and gives them all endearing qualities, even the villains. She makes it hard to develop hard feelings for a character when you start to feel sorry for them at some point.
I’m not totally sure of the historical accuracy of the dark ages period in the book, but she says as much in her historical notes section. Either way, readers will not be disappointed.