July 29th, 2020
So far in this series, I haven’t reviewed a faith-based series. That isn’t for lack of content, however. There are plenty of Christian YA authors. However, to be honest, there aren’t many contemporary YA novels written by Christian authors that I would recommend. Now that I think of it, I don’t really have any YA series to recommend that don’t have an element of fantasy to them. If you think about it, Ally Carter’s teenage spies and thieves are more fantasy than reality. I haven’t given this much thought before, but I think I have avoided realistic YA lit because it tends to be so incredibly depressing, even faith-based content. I get that, believe me I do. Being a teenager isn’t easy, and these books address the struggles teens go through. They definitely have their place, but in this series of reviews I’m leaning more towards reading that’s fun. Call it an escape if you want, but at the end of the day, I’m a firm believer that reading should be fun.
Having said all of that, the two faith-based YA series I will be reviewing are set in medieval times. I know, that isn’t fantasy, but the books are still a way to escape to another time and place. And because of the ancient ideas of chivalry and modesty, they are clean reads.
First up is Jody Hedlund’s Noble Knights series. There are five novels in the series: An Uncertain Choice, A Daring Sacrifice, For Love & Honor, A Loyal Heart, and A Worthy Rebel. There is also a prequel novella called The Vow, which I have not read (I’ll explain why in a bit).
These novels are written in first person going back and forth between the female lead and the male lead. I mention this right off the bat because it has come to my attention that some people don’t like to read books in first person. This floors me, to be honest, especially since first person narrative is extremely common in YA lit (Hunger Games and Percy Jackson, just to name two extremely popular ones). Ally Carter’s books are also written in first person, now that I think about it. Yet on Amazon, I noticed review after review pointing out Hedlund writing in first person and complaining about it. Maybe it's not as common in faith based lit? Maybe these books have more adult readers? At any rate, you have two characters in the Noble Knights series telling the story in their own voice. Two different fonts are used for each character. I actually liked this because it let you know right away what each character was thinking.
I actually didn’t know this was a series when I started, so I read For Love & Honor first. While it’s not confusing reading them out of order, characters do appear in multiple books, and I think you get more out of it if you read them in order. I also wouldn’t read the prequel first. It would just be depressing, in my opinion. I downloaded it on my e-reader because it was on sale for 99 cents, but then never read it. It’s about Rosemarie from book one, and since I already knew it would have an unhappy ending, I couldn’t bring myself to read it.
Speaking of the characters, that was my favorite thing about these books. Each one was so different from the last. You have traditionally handsome heroes like Sir Bennet and Cole Warwick, you have heroes who we are told aren’t obviously attractive like Sir Derrick and Sir Aldric, and then finally you have Sir Colin who uses humor and charm. The women are just as varied. There are the strong and courageous Julianna and Olivia, the intelligent Sabine, the devout Rosemarie, and then the tender-hearted Izzy. I especially loved that not all of these women were running around swinging swords and shooting arrows. I feel like our culture is so obsessed with - forgive my language - “bad-ass women,” that we women who are more quiet and reserved wonder if we are weak. There are so many ways to be strong, however, and I nearly wept as I read about Izzy’s insecurities. She thought her tender heart made her weak, but over the course of the story, she realized what kind of strength it actually gave her. For that reason, I related to her, Rosemarie, and Sabine the most.
Since I read Sabine and Sir Bennet’s story first, I want to take a minute to sing its praises. Lady Sabine was born with a skin blemish that she hides with long gloves. If this blemish is ever discovered, she would be branded as a witch, and her chances of marriage forever dashed. Lady Sabine is also unattractive. The entire premise of the story is so rare in fiction, that it moved me deeply. The belief that birthmarks were “marks of the devil” was also a real thing in the middle ages, so it was fascinating to read about Sabine’s struggles.
Speaking of the historical setting, Hedlund portrays it accurately with its arranged marriages, rigid social structures, and faith mixed with ancient superstition. As such, there is violence in these books that sort of reminded me of Kevin Costners’s version of Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves. You know that cage thing that they hung his dad in at the beginning of the movie? The little boy being sent to the gallows? Well, that kind of stuff happens in these books too. So if you’re considering these for a teen in your life, take into account their personality. If they're incredibly tender-hearted (like Izzy!) these books may not be right for them. On the other hand, it could be a wonderful way for your teen to learn more about this historical period.
And speaking of the middle ages, next time I’ll be reviewing an author who takes more of a fairy tale approach to things. Until then, happy reading!
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I am a former English teacher turned homeschool mom of three who writes Christian romance novels on the side. You know, in my huge amount of spare time.