Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Ninja Reviews... The Rogues by Jane Yolen and Robert Harris

After the failed Jacobite Rebellion in the late 1700s, many Scottish Lairds began to evict their tenants to make way for English sheep herders. As a result, many poor and land-dependent Scottish families lost their homes and livelihood.

The case is no different for Roddy Macallan and his family. After their Laird dies he leaves all his land and holdings to his half brother, a man who feels no ties to Scotland, his clan and his community. Enticed by the money that can be made by renting his land to English sheep farmers, the greedy new Laird evicts all his tenants. Roddy and his family are thrown out of their home, only to watch Willie Rood the Laird's unforgiving right-hand man burn their cottage and steal their only two things of value: their horse and their cow. Now the only choice the Macallan's have is to make their way to Glasgow and then on to a new life in America.

Fueled by his rage and by the cruelty inflicted on his family, Roddy makes a drastic decision one night to leave his family and go back to his family's home. He seeks 'The Blessing', something his mother told him about before she died. He finds it, a jeweled brooch given to the family by Bonnie Prince Charlie, only to have it taken from him by Willie Rood. Roddy is beaten nearly to death and would have been disposed of by Rood, if not for Alan Dunbar, the Rogue of the Hills, who saves Roddy and eventually trains him up as an apprentice.

Man and boy outrun redcoats, face their enemy, and find the benefit of brotherhood. Though the story ending is not surprising, the book is engaging and historically accurate in portraying the Scottish Highland clearances of the 1780s and 90s. If you like historical fiction with a twist, then this is a great book for you!

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