(Review) Sinful Folk: A Novel of the Middle Ages by Ned Hayes, Illustrations by Nikki McClure

Publisher: Campanile Books, January 22, 2014.
Genre: Middle Ages, mystery, 14th Century, historical fiction.
Format: Paperback.
Pages: 362.
Rating: 5 Stars for excellent.
Source: Free copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and Campanile Books.
The blog tour schedule can be found at this link: Sinful Folk. 

A tragic loss. A desperate journey. A mother seeks the truth.
In December of 1377, four children were burned to death in a house fire. Villagers traveled hundreds of miles across England to demand justice for their children’s deaths.
Sinful Folk is the story of this terrible mid-winter journey as seen by Mear, a former nun who has lived for a decade disguised as a mute man, raising her son quietly in this isolated village. For years, she has concealed herself and all her history. But on this journey, she will find the strength to redeem the promise of her past. Mear begins her journey in terror and heartache, and ends in triumph and transcendence.
The remarkable new novel by Ned Hayes, illustrated by New York Times bestselling author/illustrator Nikki McClure, Sinful Folk illuminates the medieval era with profound insight and compassion.
(Summary courtesy of HFVBT). 

My Thoughts:
A fantastic opening paragraph drew me into the story. "IN THE END, I listen to my fear. It keeps me awake, resounding through the frantic beating in my breast. It is there in the dry terror in my throat, in the pricking of the rats' nervous feet in the darkness." Sinful Folk is a difficult book to find a stopping point. I wanted to read and read and read until the last sentence.
Miriam is a woman disguised as a man and as a mute. Her alias is Mear. She and her young son, Christian, live in a rural village in England. Their "act" has worked until an accident. A woman pretending to be a man is intriguing to me. The middle ages was a male dominated society and culture, women needed a male to protect and provide for them. Mear is able to live for a decade pretending to be a man. Add to the "act" she is a mute. I was amazed by Mear's capacity to portray these two strong identities.
The setting of Sinful Folk is as bleak as the season the story is set in, a bitter cold winter. The setting reminds me of the attitude and feelings of its characters. They are isolated, mistrustful, chilling, and hardened. 
Mear and several village fathers embark on a journey to the king's court. Their task reminded me a little of the epic journey of Odysseus. I'm probably over-reaching a bit in the comparison. Mear is a strong character. She displays remarkable physical and mental strength. Her traveling companions respond to her in a way that makes me believe they admire her qualities. She is a hero. Another point which reminds me of Odysseus, is the journey Mear and her companions have taken upon themselves. Lastly, Mear is a mute, but her intelligence and eloquence of speech is depicted in her narrative voice in the story. 
The double mystery element has a building theme and a surprising outcome. 
I loved Sinful Folk and am looking forward to reading more books from Ned Hayes. 

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A BOOKNOTE interview with Ned Hayes.

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.
For more information please visit www.sinfulfolk.com and http://nednote.com/  You can also find him on FacebookTwitter,PinterestBooklikesYouTubeGoogle+, and Goodreads.

Sinful Folk Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 20
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, October 21
Review at Historical Novel Review
Wednesday, October 22
Spotlight at What is That Book About
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Thursday, October 23
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Guest Post at Books and Benches
Monday, October 27
Review at Just One More Chapter
Spotlight & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, October 28
Interview at Layered Pages
Wednesday, October 29
Review at Back Porchervations
Thursday, October 30
Interview at Back Porchervations
Friday, October 31
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Monday, November 3
Interview at Triclinium
Spotlight at Boom Baby Reviews
Tuesday, November 4
Spotlight at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, November 5
Review at Deal Sharing Aunt
Thursday, November 6
Review at bookramblings
Saturday, November 8
Review at Book Nerd
Monday, November 10
Review at Book Babe
Tuesday, November 11
Review at Impressions in Ink
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Friday, November 14
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, November 18
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Review & Giveaway at Beth’s Book Reviews
Wednesday, November 19
Review at Books in the Burbs
Review at Bookworm Babblings
Thursday, November 20
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Friday, November 21
Review at Library Educated