Book Review: A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund
March 1, 2016
In a reverse twist on the Robin Hood story, a young medieval maiden stands up for the rights of the mistreated, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. All the while, she fights against her cruel uncle who has taken over the land that is rightfully hers. Forced to live in the woods and hide with the poor people she's grown to love, she works to save and protect them, but she never anticipates falling in love with the wealthy knight who represents all she's come to despise.
My Take in 3 Parts
The plot is precisely what the synopsis promised, a reverse twist on Robin Hood. Juliana's father was deposed from his land and then murdered when he attempted an uprising to reclaim it. Juliana herself is left alone, confused, and extremely bitter about the injustice done to her family and also the poor, helpless peasants who her uncle now keeps in cruel bondage. Juliana, an expert huntress and bowman, does what little she can to sustain the people in her care, even it means robbing from the rich.
Being a thief, however, has its distinct disadvantages, especially when you get caught, as inevitably happens to Juliana. But the man caught her is more intent on winning her heart than turning her in as a thief. Lord Collin Goodrich, a character from Ms. Hedlund's previous novel An Uncertain Choice, has finally met a woman worth wooing, and while his original intentions may have been simply to woo Juliana, he quickly learns that to win Juliana must also mean defending the weak and the helpless right alongside her.
Together, Juliana must learn that thievery is not always the best choice and Collin must learn that despondency and apathy towards the peasantry have no place in the heart of a nobleman.
Juliana is an average teenage heroine, spunky, rebellious, and reckless. She wasn't entirely to my liking, but I knew she wouldn't be before I was even 2 pages into the novel. As for Collin, I liked him fine, just as I did in An Uncertain Choice. His character suffers from apathy, certainly, but he overcomes it and discovers that he genuinely wants to help those less fortunate than himself, which is practically everyone. He's quite the dashing, heroic figure that is sure to make many feminine hearts flutter.
As always, Ms. Hedlund's writing lacks nothing. I've enjoyed a good many of her books for years, and always seek out any new titles. While this particular novel is more simplistic than most, it's also written for a younger, YA audience, and it's quite a lot shorter than the majority of her work so she couldn't be too descriptive. She successfully managed the time and space allotted for this novel.
I'm reluctant to admit this, but A Daring Sacrifice just didn't sit well with me. The same issue I had with An Uncertain Choice arose again here. I abhor torture, be it in film or on the written page, and I think Ms. Hedlund goes too far with her mention of torture methods employed in the Middle Ages. Especially considering this is a YA book. If it were simply a secular YA novel I might feel differently, but I hold Christian authors to higher standards of ethics than I do secular authors, and so I should. It's why I don't read all that much of Ted Dekker's works, because they're too gruesome.
So I'm left with a conundrum. On the one hand, I feel that A Daring Sacrifice didn't quite reach its full potential as a Robin Hood re-telling, and on the other, I found it distastefully violent. So long as readers know what they're getting in for, they should be fine, but I don't want to start dreading to pick up one of Ms. Hedlund's novels for fear that she's going to start mentioning someone being drawn and quartered. I hope for any other YA books in her future, that she tones down the violence.
Note: I received a free ARC of A Daring Sacrifice from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.