Be transported back in time to the days of knights and castles, chivalry and honor, as you open the pages of Jody Hedlund’s newest work of fiction… An Uncertain Choice. Published by Zondervan in March of 2015, the novel is Ms. Hedlund’s first story intended for a teen audience, and the first in a three-book series. Additionally, a short-story prequel to the novel is available in e-book format, and reveals the interesting backstory from four years prior. As expressed by the author, the purpose of An Uncertain Choice is to bring medieval romance and adventure to life while imparting wisdom for modern-day readers to incorporate into their own lives and relationships. As an added tool for mothers and other leaders of young women, a carefully designed study guide filled with personal questions and insightful discussion topics is available for free download online.
An Uncertain Choice is clearly the work of a talented and experienced writer, since every aspect of setting, characters, and plot are portrayed vividly and with insightful depth. Medieval life comes alive in great detail, and the abundance of castles, knights in armor, and secret, fairytale-ish vows are sure to delight readers. Lady Rosemarie, the heroine of the story, is depicted through first person narration in a relatable and sympathetic manner. Likewise each secondary character – including one who shares in a small portion of first person narrating – is generally believable and realistic, touching us emotionally in various ways. Throughout the story, as Rosemarie is faced with unraveling a complicated, twisting-and-turning decision that will affect her entire kingdom, an air of mystery and intrigue raises expectations and builds suspense. Certainly from beginning to end, An Uncertain Choice is the work of a master writer.
As a well-written story filled with realistic characters and a rollercoaster of unexpected turns, the novel also contains messages written with young readers in mind. Essentially, the interactions between Lady Rosemarie and each of her potential suitors remain honorable, and the worth of true and sacrificial love is given prominence while God’s overarching will is continually sought. As a morally demonstrative story geared towards a young audience, however, a few problems arise. Beginning in the prequel e-book and continuing into An Uncertain Choice, Lady Rosemarie is a VERY young woman who is faced with decisions, emotions and circumstances that, in today’s culture, she is simply too young to deal with. Rosemarie is only 14 years old when she falls in love for the first time, and not yet 18 years old when she begins courting with the possible intent of marriage. Granted, the medieval lifestyle likely initiated young marriages, and the emotions portrayed by Rosemarie and her Knight are realistic, but perhaps too in depth for younger teens to unravel by themselves. Without a doubt, An Uncertain Choice is far better reading material than the vast majority of teen fiction available… But is it possible that it’s clear, even innocent label as Christian fiction makes it more capable of directing young teens towards serious relationships before they are ready? Does it give parents cause to share the book with their daughters, confident in its content, morals, and appropriateness without feeling the need to read it first? As with any reading material the content is objective, depending on the reader. It is my opinion, however, that this book is charming, interesting, and morally instructive for young, single adults, including older teens – but not twelve- or thirteen-year-olds.
UPDATE NOTE: After posting the above review, it has come to my attention that I failed to mention one more important, negative aspect of An Uncertain Choice. Unexpectedly, large portions of the book were devoted to in-depth descriptions of medieval torture practices, many of them horrific and unthinkable. Though they were handled as an inhumane and sinful action worthy of banishment, younger readers, and even sensitive older readers, may be bothered by these descriptions that occurred too often and in too much depth for a teen fiction story. I sincerely apologize for failing to make note of this in my original review.
*** This book was provided courtesy of HarperCollins Canada, in exchange for my honest review. It is available for purchase at bookstores from Zondervan Publishers.