Review: “Many Sparrows” by Lori Benton

My copy of Many Sparrows

In my experience with the world of richly written historical fiction, Lori Benton is a master storyteller. Her stories never cease to leave me speechless for days and touch my spirit with their truths and dynamic characters. Her latest standalone release, Many Sparrows, is another such work of art. Combining cultures and a unique piece of real history (Dunmore’s War), it explores a mother’s heart, her longing for peace, and her journey to forgiveness.

About the Book

Either she and her children would emerge from that wilderness together, or none of them would…

Many SparrowsIn 1774, the Ohio-Kentucky frontier pulses with rising tension and brutal conflicts as Colonists push westward and encroach upon Native American territories. The young Inglesby family is making the perilous journey west when an accident sends Philip back to Redstone Fort for help, forcing him to leave his pregnant wife Clare and their four-year old son Jacob on a remote mountain trail.
When Philip does not return and Jacob disappears from the wagon under the cover of darkness, Clare awakens the next morning to find herself utterly alone, in labor and wondering how she can to recover her son…especially when her second child is moments away from being born.

Clare will face the greatest fight of her life, as she struggles to reclaim her son from the Shawnee Indians now holding him captive. But with the battle lines sharply drawn, Jacob’s life might not be the only one at stake. When frontiersman Jeremiah Ring comes to her aid, can the stranger convince Clare that recovering her son will require the very thing her anguished heart is unwilling to do—be still, wait and let God fight this battle for them?

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Review

Many Sparrows is a stunning masterpiece of a story, chronicling the challenge and patience of trust and the importance of forgiveness. The truths and wisdom found between these pages, presented in story, are timeless. With her typical historical research and attention to detail, Lori Benton portrays the contrasts of cultures and tumultuous era in this novel with great care. The Shawnee culture is impactfully presented, touching a personal part of Clare she would rather protect from vulnerability and a growing care for their well being.

20170906_002043Like scars are stronger after healing, so too is Clare by story’s end. Permanently changed, sometimes through pain, but stronger as a result of her trials. The beauty of Clare and Jeremiah’s journey outshines the struggles, pointing to the God who knows all and intends good things for His children, even when circumstances appears as though any resolution will bring pain.

Clare and Jeremiah are exposed at heart-level on the page, emotionally relatable despite their seeming distance in history. I loved seeing their bond of friendship grow as their separate stories entwine and parallel each other in many ways. My heart broke along with Clare’s, and soared with Jeremiah’s words of wisdom and steady support. I was amused by Wildcat and humored by Jacob. Most of all, Rain Crow spurred a response of compassion and emotion that caught me off guard more than once (just like it did Clare) with its depth and desire for healing.

To delve deeper into the themes and twists of this novel would take away from the the way this plot beautifully unfolds, so I will end by saying read it! While it is heart-wrenching at times, its portrayal of a world on the cusp of great change (just before the American Revolution) is touching in its authenticity and relevance.

For fans of: Laura Frantz, Jocelyn Green, Native American culture, late 1700s American frontier stories, adventure, and romance.

Thank you to WaterBrook for providing a complimentary ARC of this novel. This is my honest review.

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Review: “A Flight of Arrows” by Lori Benton

Review: “A Flight of Arrows” by Lori Benton

With only a handful of books to her name (thus far), Lori Benton has already established herself as a go-to author in the world of historical fiction (AKA #mustread). Her attention to detail, writing style, and heart-tugging characters combine to create epic stories set during the wild frontier times of America and freshly showcase Native American cultures. Needless to say, any time I have the chance to read one of her stories, I’m going to jump at it!

I’m happily on her book launch team for her new release, A Flight of Arrows. It is the second half and conclusion to her “Pathfinders” duology.

du·ol·o·gy
d(y)o͞oˈäləjē/
noun
definition: a pair of related novels, plays, or movies

 

Note: the books really should be read in order. So, if you haven’t already, please check out The Wood’s Edge first to avoid spoilers and to experience this story fully. You have been warned!

About the Book

A Flight of ArrowsOctober 1776–August 1777

It is said that what a man sows he will reap–and for such a harvest there is no set season. No one connected to Reginald Aubrey is untouched by the crime he committed twenty years ago.

Not William, the Oneida child Reginald stole and raised as his own. Identity shattered, enlisted in the British army, William trains with Loyalist refugees eager to annihilate the rebels who forced them into exile. Coming to terms with who and what he is proves impossible, but if he breaks his Loyalist oath, he’ll be no better than the man who constructed his life of lies.

Not Anna, Reginald’s adopted daughter, nor Two Hawks, William’s twin, both who long for Reginald to accept their love despite the challenges they will face, building a marriage that bridges two cultures.

Not Good Voice and Stone Thrower, freed of bitterness by a courageous act of forgiveness, but still yearning for their firstborn son and fearful for the future of their Oneida people.

As the British prepare to attack frontier New York and Patriot regiments rally to defend it, two families separated by culture, united by love, will do all in their power to reclaim the son marching toward them in the ranks of their enemies.

Purchase on Amazon

Review

“You do not let fly an arrow before you aim it.” -Good Voice, pg 30

This story follows a tangle of characters in the middle of a path toward redemption while a major cultural conflict takes place within the Revolution. It’s quite interesting how their choices and circumstances come between them and have ripple effects.

A Flight of Arrows by Lori Benton (ARC)For instance, Reginald’s choices years ago have caused everyone’s life to be very different. His choices, though, led to opportunities for redemption and healing for everyone involved. Without his hasty deceptive choice, we would never know Anna and Two Hawks’ love story, the deeper-than-friendship unity of Reginald and Stone Thrower, the ever-supportive and patient Lydia and Good Voice, and the power of forgiveness that bonds all of them together. All of their journeys really show the ability of God to redeem a choice, a situation, or a mistake, and use it for our good and His glory.

I already miss these characters! Each one found his or her way into my heart for a different reason, but especially Two Hawks. And Stone Thrower (for reasons. No spoilers here!). Two Hawks’ love and devotion to Anna is topped only by his respect for her father and desire to do things the way God wills. The selflessness of Two Hawks and Stone Thrower, on several occasions, is impressive.

This is an epic story that covers much ground and the rich history of lesser-known events of the Revolutionary War (at least very new to me). Lori has the extraordinary ability to convey the weight of a situation, the pain, danger, or heart-wrenching emotion of a moment or decision through her writing. I was riveted from the beginning! If you have an opportunity to read this series, please do. And come tell me your feelings, after!

A HUGE thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah and Lori for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

And, this book has an amazing Pinterest board! Check it out here.

My previous posts:

The Wood’s Edge (interview & review)

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn (review)

Find the first chapter of A Flight of Arrows and all kinds of extras via Lori’s blog, or visit her Facebook author page!

The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton: Review + Interview + GIVEAWAY

The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton: Review + Interview + GIVEAWAY

On rare occasions, books come along that have such depth and truth painted in a beautiful manner, they surpass mere literary purposes and become timeless accounts of their characters’ trials and journeys — even if they are fictional.

The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton is one such gem. I’m happy to be reviewing it today and sharing an insightful review with the author. Plus, Lori has graciously offered to give away an autographed copy of The Wood’s Edge to one of my readers!!! You can find instructions for how to enter the giveaway at the end of this post.

Plot Summary: At the wood’s edge cultures collide. Can two families survive the impact?Woods Edge

The 1757 New York frontier is home to the Oneida tribe and to British colonists, yet their feet rarely walk the same paths.

On the day Fort William Henry falls, Major Reginald Aubrey is beside himself with grief. His son, born that day, has died in the arms of his sleeping wife. When Reginald comes across an Oneida mother with newborn twins, one white, one brown, he makes a choice that will haunt the lives of all involved. He steals the white baby and leaves his own child behind. Reginald’s wife and foundling daughter, Anna, never suspect the truth about the boy they call William, but Reginald is wracked by regret that only intensifies with time, as his secret spreads its devastating ripples.

When the long buried truth comes to light, can an unlikely friendship forged at the wood’s edge provide a way forward? For a father tormented by fear of judgment, another by lust for vengeance. For a mother still grieving her lost child. For a brother who feels his twin’s absence, another unaware of his twin’s existence. And for Anna, who loves them both–Two Hawks, the mysterious Oneida boy she meets in secret, and William, her brother. As paths long divided collide, how will God direct the feet of those who follow Him?

My thoughts:

Lori Benton has a way with words that completely immerses the reader in the story – the setting, characters’ hearts, the smell and feel of the woods, the clothing, and the feelings of opposite cultures. You might recall how much I LOVED one of her previous novels, The Pursuit of Tamsen LittlejohnIt still remains one of my all-time favorite books.

I’m sure it is challenging to write a complex story that spans over several years’ time, but Lori makes it seem effortless. Small gaps in time are traversed while maintaining ongoing emotions of the characters and with no lull to the pace of the story. From the beginning, the reader is torn between two worlds (much like the characters themselves are), that of frontier colonial America and generations of established Oneida Indian culture.

Without saying too much, I did love how Lori chose to develop a certain romantic relationship between two of the characters. This relationship was a little unexpected initially (though I was rooting for it!) and seemed, at times, an impossibility due to the characters’ circumstances. But it was sweetly developed in the story in a way only Lori could write!

Within this story, Lori has included the unique perspective of the events leading up to the Revolutionary War from the Oneida tribe’s viewpoint (specifically, the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, to which the Oneidas belonged). The attention to detail and the historical research included in The Wood’s Edge make this a rich and fascinating read.

With themes of mercy, grace, and forgiveness, the characters of The Wood’s Edge face lessons wrought through choices. Choices of love, hatred, following God’s path, or sin. These choices shape who the characters become, whether right or wrong, with consequences that can only be overcome through forgiveness.

I could go on talking about this book for a long time. There is so much I could still say about the characters – the faithful missionary who shared the simple truth of Jesus’ sacrifice, the friend who becomes a mentor to Anna, or the supporting characters who offer words of wisdom in the midst of great loss. Or, I could save us both some time, and you could read it for yourself! Trust me, it will be time well spent.

Alright, next I get to share my interview with author Lori Benton! 

What was the inspiration for The Wood’s Edge?

TWE_2ChSneakPeek_txtIn writing my previous published novels, Burning Sky and The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, I recognized my passion for telling stories about people caught in a middle ground—between cultures, identities, social classes, world views, etc. So I was looking for a setting and historical situation through which to weave another story of this kind, something similar to those previous titles but not exactly the same. I began thinking about the back story I hinted at in Burning Sky—the political conflict on the New York frontier, during the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, that divided not only colonists but also the Iroquois Confederacy. Then there was that terrible battle called Oriskany in 1777…

Around that time I read an article about twins born to a multiracial couple where one twin was dark skinned, the other fair. They were quite a startling contrast. That snagged my attention. I began asking myself the “what if” questions that authors do. What if a set of twins like these was born in the 18th century? What if one of them was raised never knowing he had a different heritage than his skin proclaimed? What if I set this against that Revolutionary War backdrop and put one twin on one side of the conflict, one on the other?

That’s the short story of how The Wood’s Edge grew into being.

What spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

The Wood’s Edge is a story of grief and healing, vengeance and forgiveness, and man’s justice verses God’s mercy. I hope the journey these characters take will be one that touches readers hearts in all these areas and more. God’s ways are often counter to the impulses of the human heart and mind. Sometimes it’s in dying that we find life, or in laying down a right that we find the peace we truly need.

What was most challenging about writing a story set in mid-18th century America?

It’s always challenging to force myself to think like a person from the mid-18th century and not with my own 21st century world view. People from that era wouldn’t necessarily react to situations as we would. The only way to absorb something of their mindset is to read widely in primary sources like diaries and journals and letters.

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies?

LORI_1

When I’m not home writing I love to get out into the mountains, take a hike along a river, enjoy our wonderful forests and mountain vistas. We try to do that on Sundays after church. Heading up to church is an excursion into the mountains too, as that’s where our fellowship is situated. As for hobbies, right now writing doesn’t leave time for them, though I wouldn’t mind getting back to my abandoned love of wildlife painting.

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

I’d just pick the 18th century purely for research purposes—if I could get back. Otherwise I really like living now, with the hope of Christ’s return so near.

What are you currently reading?

Remnants: Season of Fire by Lisa T. Bergren

Grace Intervention by Bill Giovannetti

A book on blacksmithing for research

Connect with Lori at her blog or on her Facebook author page.

Thank you so much, Lori, for taking to time to answer my questions! I look forward to seeing what’s next in this “Pathfinders” series. Also, a huge thank you to Lori and Waterbrook Multnomah for sharing an advance review copy of The Wood’s Edge with me.

Giveaway time!

To enter, leave a comment (with a valid email address) answering this question: What are you currently reading? Giveaway open to US residents only through 5/01/15. Winner will be contacted by email on 5/02. Good luck!