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Return of the White Deer by Robert Sells

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Twelve year old Pen lived an idyllic life on a small farm in seventh century England. Frustrated with his father’s refusal to resist the outrages of tax collectors, Pen refused to be molded into a farmer; instead, he secretly learned how to wield a sword.  Shocked one evening when his weaponless father easily subdued an obnoxious soldier, Pen grappled with a new view about his father. Other mysteries swirl about the boy.  His best friend, the spunky and beautiful neighbor, Liana, disappeared for days at time with the other adult females of the village. Why and where? Pen’s sword master, Thatcher, was thought to be the best sword fighter in the country. Why was he wasting his talents in a backwater village? What exactly was going on inside Markwood forest, a forbidden area to all but the king and his henchmen? Why was the king suddenly interested in Pen? The greatest secret of all was one which Pen kept from everyone else… his short time with the mysterious White Deer.
Prompted by rumors that Pen might have been chosen to rule by the White Deer, the king kidnaps him. Pen’s enraged father reveals himself as the legendary Petronius, formerly the general of the army of Mercia. After freeing his son, Petronius takes him to Markwood forest where they are protected by the strange green men who rule the interior of Markwood. What started as a rescue mission changes into a rebellion. Liana and hundreds of blue-robed female archers join the cause. Thatcher adds a small army of former veterans.  Though frightened and confused about the drama swirling about him, Pen faces his fears and grudgingly accepts the weight of leadership. He leaves the relatively safe confines of Markwood to enlist the aid of a wild tribe of horsemen to help with the struggle.
Mercenaries from the king try to kill Pen. In the ensuing struggle, he is saved by his simple-minded servant, Songor.  Frustrated by his failure in dispatching the lad, the king marshals his considerable army to end the rebellion.  During the final battle, Pen watches helplessly as the king slays Songor. Enraged beyond both reason and fear, the young leader fights the king himself. Stronger and more experienced, the king is about to kill the lad when an arrow penetrates his armor and kills him. It is the same arrow the king lost years before while hunting the White Deer.  
In the span of a few months, a boy has grown into a man.  The man reluctantly becomes king.


Young Pen does not want to follow in his father's footsteps, he wants to try for something more in life. He starts with learning how to defend himself, slowly maturing from a child to a man.  It is difficult to sum up the book better than what is already mentioned in the summary without letting a few spoilers go, so this review will not focus too much on that.  The reader will enjoy getting to know and connect to Pen.  His character is easy to like, his characteristics are memorable. 

Pen manages to remain comparatively normal regardless of the unusual circumstances he finds himself in.  For the most part, he comes off as a caring, intelligent, and brave character.  The other characters are fun to get to know, but Pen's character will be the one to draw the reader in.  The reader will travel with Pen; the book is almost inspirational with the message that sometimes, with enough effort, good may overcome evil.  It is exhilarating to believe that one may fight someone much stronger and more powerful and stand a fighting chance.  The significance of the white deer is clear throughout the novel, though not overstated.  The author writes with purpose, the book is well-written overall.  There are several twists that will keep the reader entertained and turning the next page.  This book is good for teen/middle grade readers.

4 Stars

Find this book:
Author's site (book is sold for $16.95 and autographed!)

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews.