As I think has become apparent by now, I love historical fiction. Probably better than anything else, including fantasy. However, as I have also mentioned before, it is extremely difficult to find decent and appropriete fiction- especially now as I move into adulthood and find much of it soaked with sex and language.
Far Traveler is meant for teens and young adults- unfortunately, because it's a story that could have been a gripping adult novel as well.
However, along with the Rosemary Sutcliff books, it is a great story of Anglo Saxon England- and unlike Sutcliff's work, it is geared towards a female audience.
Aelfwyn is a princess of Mercia, a grandaughter of Alfred the Great. When her mother dies she finds herself a mere pawn in the hands of her uncle.
Escaping from an unpleasant marriage, she disguises herself as a boy and runs away, posing as a traveling minstral. What she doesn't expect is that this guise will give her a perfect role in an insurrection against her uncle...
What I enjoyed about this book was that the author actually works against the cliches of this plotline. Aelfwyn is not a tomboy. Indeed, a major part of the plot is that she cannot master riding the great war horse that her mother gave her. She would much rather study her books...
Furthermore, she doesn't want to dress up and run away as a boy. She does it because she literally has no choice- it is that or marry a man 3 times her age (at least). And I'm sorry if that's cliche, but I can't think of any girl that would reasonably accept being sent away from your people to marry a man that much older than you. It's just not right.
What I also enjoyed were the referances to Anglo-Saxon literature and poetry. Caedmon's hymn, of course, gets passing mention, but even more than that, the poem "The Wanderer" is quoted (which readers of Tolkien may find surprisingly familiar to a certain song of Rohan). For this alone I would highly recommend this book to any parent as worthy of being included in their history course.
To the young people themselves I would say that it's an unusual story, with an unusual heroine, and a hero type that I think we should see more often. Go ahead- order it from your local library.