**Warning: Contains minor spoilers!
I thought I’d buried my conscience the same day I’d buried the chopped remains of my father’s tortured body, gathered after he’d been drawn and quartered.
Juliana lived a peaceful life in medieval England. Her father was Lord of Wessex land, a prominent nobleman, and Juliana lived lavishly in a castle. Her whole life is upended when Juliana’s uncle usurps her father’s position. Juliana is forced to live with the peasants – poor and disenchanted with high taxes – in humble forest huts. Her father leads a rebellion against the new Lord Wessex, but is captured and brutally killed. Juliana is believed to have perished in the fray, but she lives on in hiding with a group of peasant companions, including the fatherlike Bulldog and his young son, Thatch. Juliana is full of anger and resentment towards all nobles. She spends her days masquerading as a boy, hunting and stealing from the rich in order to feed her homeless friends. Her actions earn her the name of the Cloaked Bandit, and she is a wanted criminal. But Juliana is no match for her Uncle or his guards. There have been some close calls, but she is too good to be caught. Until someone even stealthier than Juliana comes along.
Lord Collin Goodrich is returning home to his estate when he is robbed by a mud-faced bandit. There’s something curious about him: his eyes are too bright and his face too pretty. Collin figures out that the lithe bandit is actually a woman! He allows the criminal to escape, only to follow her and take her back to his home. When he realizes that the “Cloaked Bandit” is Juliana Wessex, a lady of noble birth, Collin is astonished. He remembers her from childhood, when he made a joke about her strawberry-colored hair. [Note: Gingers rule! I’m so happy that Juliana was a strong, survivalist ginger (as I am one myself). Her hair became a character of its own in the book]. Collin is immediately taken with the red-haired beauty, and vows to convince Juliana that not all noblemen are evil. They make a deal to live in each other’s worlds for a week. But can Juliana’s true identity remain secret forever? What will become of her peasant friends? Can Lord Collin earn her love and trust? Read A Daring Sacrifice to find out.
I should note that this book is the second in the “Uncertain Choice” series, but can completely stand on its own. I didn’t read the first book and I had no trouble following this one. It seems like the two have completely different characters and plots, but are both set in the same time period and world.
As for the time period, I would like to clear something up. A lot of people seem to be saying that the book is historically inaccurate, in terms of vocabulary and torture methods. Although the setting is supposed to be Medieval England, the author stated in an interview that her Young Adult books are treated more like fantasy than historical. Keeping that in mind, I had no problem with the historical discrepancies that some found so troublesome.
Now, getting into the nitty gritty. I LOVED this book. At 220 pages, it is one of the shortest YA books I’ve read, but it packs a mean punch. The story is fast-paced, exciting, and poignant. Of course, the book is marketed as a romance, and though the love story is sweet and captivating, it does not overshadow a very powerful message. That message – if you couldn’t guess from the title – is sacrifice. Sometimes the greatest act of love is sacrifice. Two young people, aged just seventeen (Juliana) and twenty (Collin) learn to sacrifice their comfort, pride, and very lives, for the sake of a greater good. There is a passage where Juliana talks about the emotional trauma and beauty of Collin sacrificing himself for her, despite the fact that Juliana confessed to not loving him, which broke his heart. This passage could have easily been talking about Jesus Christ, which brings me to the faith element of his book.
Juliana and Collin are both religious, which I imagine is a correct depiction of Medieval English society. Thus, they discuss God, His will, prayer, and Collin utters “Blessed Mary” a lot when he’s in distress. Juliana spends time talking to God and grappling with stealing; she’s starting to question if this method of achieving justice is right in the Lord’s eyes. In fact, when Juliana is staying with Collin, she tells him that one of her favorite parts of her stay has been to pray in a house of worship, because she’s only talked to God in the woods for so long. So the characters definitely know God and He’s a part of daily life. I liked seeing this; it sets a good example for young people, having characters include God in their thoughts and decisions.
The story was told in first-person point of view, alternating between Juliana and Collin. This spiced things up and made the story more unique than other YA books. The two perspectives were done well because Juliana and Collin had completely different voices. It wasn’t obvious that both their parts were written by the same author. Their inner voices showed so much depth and personality for such a quick read. I only wish I had gotten some more pages, but the story did not seem rushed at all.
I hope my review will make you want to give this book a try. If you like Christian YA historical/fantasy romance, but want something a little different than usual, this book is for you!