Monday, November 3, 2014

Book Review: Sinful Folk by Ned Hayes


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.



Absolutely fascinating!  I missed a chance to read this book earlier in the year, and am so, SO glad to have had this opportunity.

I'd like to say that some of the prejudices outlined in this book set in the Dark Ages are no longer present in our world, but I'd be a liar.

Granted, the tragedy is horribly unimaginable.  Five young boys burned to death.  And it wasn't an accident.  Someone had tied the door to the house shut.  We can only hope the perpetrator(s) would burn ... for eternity.  And, because of the religious climate of the time, the village folk blamed this on the Jews.

Only slightly less heinous, is the growing suspicions that these boys were going to be sold into 'indentured servanthood', which at the time was little better (if at all) than slavery.  Lower social classes of the time could apparently not even travel out of their villages without written permission from whatever 'nobleman' ruled their area.  This is another time period in which I would not have lasted long?  A permission slip to travel to the next town over to visit family?  Luckily for me, most of the words I would spew at anyone trying to stop me would probably be misunderstood.  Unluckily for me, they would probably accuse me of witchcraft and cursing them with incantations.

And then there is Mear, aka Miriam.  What a resourceful woman!  After giving birth to a son, an earl tries to have her (and the child, I presume) killed - probably to avoid having a 'bastard' get any of his estate.  Not only does Miriam get away with her son, but she manages to hide as the mute man 'Mear', and live in a small village for nearly ten years, including those first breastfeeding months!

As the 'father' of Christian, she travels with the other fathers (and the charred corpses) in order to demand justice against the supposedly Jewish murderers.  They encounter many dangers and hardships on the way, and are eventually accused in a religious court at a monastery for not burying their dead sons and for theft and sentenced to death by fire.  Incidentally, I was surprised at how long it took me to make the connection that Mear would have two problems if her secrets came out at that court.  One, she was a woman dressed and living as a man, which I can't believe the monks of the time would view as 'natural' and with a name like 'Miriam', many of her good Christian neighbors would probably turn on her.

Sinful Folk is an artfully worded historical fiction, as melodic as many ballads and religious chants of the time.  It is also a wonderful lesson in the dangers of prejudice and jumping to conclusions.  I can't wait to read his 

If you like historical fiction, this book should be on your shelves!  (Oh wait, this is 2014, ok, on your Kindle or Nook then.)



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 and You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Booklikes, YouTube, Google+, and Goodreads.


Click on the above logo to see the rest of the tour, which includes more reviews as well as interviews, spotlights, guest posts and giveaways!

(Disclosure:  I received an ecopy of this book from the author and publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my unbiased review.)

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