Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for With Face Aflame by A. E. Walnofer. My thanks to Zoé at Zooloo’s Book Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my digital review copy.
About the Book
Born with a red mark emblazoned across her face, seventeen-year-old Madge is lonely as she spends her days serving guests and cleaning rooms in the inn her father keeps.
One day, she meets an unusual minstrel in the marketplace. Moved by the beauty of his song and the odd shape of his body, she realizes she has made her first friend. But he must go on to the next town, leaving her behind. Soon after, while she herself is singing in the woods, she is startled by a chance meeting with a stranger there. Though the encounter leaves her horribly embarrassed, it proves she need not remain unnoticed and alone forever.
However, this new hope is shattered when she overhears a few quiet words that weren’t intended for her ears. Heartbroken and confused, she flees her home to join the minstrel and his companion, a crass juggler. As they travel earning their daily bread, Madge secretly seeks to rid herself of the mark upon her cheek, convinced that nothing else can heal her heart.
Format: ebook (290 pages) Publisher: N/A
Publication date: 13th April 2018 Genre: Historical Fiction
Find With Face Aflame on Goodreads
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Although set in England in 1681, wider historical events reside largely in the background with only brief references to religious differences of the time woven into the story, such as chance encounters during which Madge learns about the imprisonment of Quakers and the flight to England from France of men and women facing persecution for their beliefs. In fact, I would have welcomed more content about the history of the period and why the author had chosen this precise period to set the book. I think this might have been particularly useful for those unfamiliar with this time in English history.
The prejudice faced by those who are seen to be “different” is a theme of the book. The most obvious example is Madge’s facial birthmark that she feels the need to hide from guests at her widowed father’s inn, the Gander’s Wing, but on her travels Madge encounters others deemed to be different. Another theme is the importance of not judging by appearances. For example, Brom the juggler is handsome but a rather uncouth character, whereas Keaton the minstrel has a slight physical deformity but possesses prodigious musical talent and shows kindness towards Madge, encouraging her to overcome her reluctance to sing in public.
I felt sympathy for Madge who, overhearing a chance remark, mistakenly believes herself unloved because of her physical appearance and underestimates the qualities she possesses: not just her beautiful singing voice but her intelligence and kindness to others. Through her internal dialogue, the reader witnesses her frequent dilemmas about whether she is doing the right thing and whether she should disclose the true reason for her journey to Keaton. What happens when Madge eventually returns home was less of a surprise to this reader than to Madge herself.
With Face Aflame is an engaging coming of age story about a young girl seeking the confidence to overcome prejudice in a world often lacking in tolerance.
About the Author
A. E. Walnofer spends weekdays mobilizing the soft tissue and synovial joints of patients, and weekends typing out stories that are incessantly brewing inside her head. There are lots of these tales and she hopes to share many more of them with you in the future.