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The Hag Rider

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You have never read a Civil War story like this!

Yes, it is set in the south during the Civil War, but this book is far from a glorification of the antebellum era. At its core, it is a soldier's story told through young eyes. Jack does not believe in slavery and he strives to overcome the prejudices of the time while at the same time knowing he is a product of those times.

Written as a memoir, The Hag Rider explores fifteen-year-old Jack Benson's transition to manhood as he tells his soldier's account of life in the Confederate cavalry, a life convoluted by the spectral manipulations of Vanita, an old witch-woman who is sworn to protect him. Her hidden presence seems to protect Jack throughout the war in amazing ways, across countless miles, through patrols, battle, and capture.

269 pages, Kindle Edition

Published June 1, 2020

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About the author

Thomas Fenske

7 books51 followers
Thomas Fenske considers himself a hybrid Texas/North Carolina writer, but like most native Texans he knows that his soul ultimately belongs to Texas.

He has searched country roads in search of the best Chicken-Fried Steak, Chili, Texas BBQ, and real Tex-Mex. He's hiked the Guadalupe Mountains, rafted the Rio Grande and braved rapids on the Guadalupe River. He’s suffered through waves of mosquitoes in The Big Thicket, endured hurricanes, shivered through ice storms, battled hail, wind, floods, and blistered in the heat of the long Texas summers. Once he even rode across a fair-sized piece of ranch land looking for a lost longhorn cow and calf.

That’s not to say many similar adventures don’t exist in North Carolina too, especially the hail, ice storms, and hurricanes.

Ah, but why did he leave the Lone Star State? He often asks himself that question and longs to return. Actually, it was for a job to better provide for his family and sadly, once he got stuck doing that -- well, shucks.

He'd like to say he was a product of the famed writing program at the University of Houston, but in fact, that program came into being shortly after he graduated. This is but one of many similar ironies that have been part of a recurring story of his life.

He and his lovely wife of thirty-plus years currently share their home with nine cats. Somehow, he still manages to write amidst the chaos.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
Profile Image for Kammy.
159 reviews9 followers
August 21, 2020
Thank you to the author for providing me with an electronic copy of this book!

The story of Little young benson gets you right from the start! This book enables you to see war from the eyes of a young soldier. And it touches upon the sensitive subject of a soldier’s personal morality versus his duty. Something that to this day, soldiers struggle with. This story is simple yet so profound.
Looking forward to reading some of the other books by this author!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Dianne.
6,765 reviews583 followers
April 21, 2020
History is more than just a recounting of events and Thomas Fenske brings the Civil War to life through the eyes of a young Southern teen and the mystery of an old witch-woman who is sworn to protect him. What was so special about young Jack that a dying slave would assure he would have guardians throughout his military career? Even Jack wasn’t sure what to think as he faces training, deployment and separation from his company.

Told simply, the plain words and thoughts of young Jack feel as if he were sharing his life, the pain of war and loss, the joy of living and an innocence he managed to hang on to when a country was tearing itself apart, brother against brother, and ideology against ideology.

THE HAG RIDER demonstrates Thomas Fenske’s ability to capture an era, create a world and bring his readers into the pages as each scene comes to life, and just maybe, a truer sense of reality is uncovered. We tend to forget that soldiers are real people, with families, who have known both good and bad times, but then have followed their hearts and stood by their countrymen, perhaps not even truly understanding what they were fighting for.

A wonderful tale of the past, told through the eyes of youth in a world where a little magic was still possible. Highly recommended reading for all ages.

I received a complimentary ARC edition from Thomas Fenske! This is my honest and voluntary review.
Expected Publication Date: June 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
For Reviews, Giveaways, Fabulous Book News, follow: http://tometender.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Bonnye Reed.
4,016 reviews67 followers
June 3, 2020
I received a free electronic copy of this excellent historical/fantasy novel by Thomas Fenske from the author. Thank you for sharing your hard work with me. I have read this novel of my own volition and this review reflects my personal opinion of this work. I am happy to add Thomas Fenske to my must-reads author list and recommend him highly to friends and family.

Fenske writes a tight tale with believable protagonists - even those questionable beings who aren't really there. The Hag Vanita reminds me at times of my Mom - always with the advice and the "I told you so" when you don't heed it - and the Civil War-era details are well researched and correct. I chuckled my way through this which intrigued my husband to the point that he also read it when I was through. It reminded us both at times of the work of Jim Butcher. I wait impatiently for more from Thomas Fenske.
Publishing date June 1, 2020
Reviewed on April 30, 2020, at Goodreads. Reviewed on June 3, 2020, at AmazonSmile, Barnes&Noble, and BookBub. Not available for review at Kobo or GooglePlay.
Profile Image for Kristin.
Author 1 book12 followers
June 9, 2020
So, I hear Thomas Fenske and think Texas, paranormal activity, a little bit of danger...and they're all present, against the little-known (at least to me, raised on the East Coast) backdrop of the Civil War in Texas. The Hag Rider is the fictional memoir of a 15 year old Confederate cavalryman in Texas, who joins the fight to serve Texas, despite his youth and discomfort with slavery. He is protected through his ordeal by an old slave woman and witch, Vanita, whose presence follows him thousands of miles through the Confederacy and the Union.

As usual, Fenske manages to touch on important and heavy issues, things that get to the truths of human existence, without getting preachy. Being the Civil War, there's a lot in The Hag Rider about racism and slavery and Fenske just makes it seem obvious that they're wrong, just by presenting authentic human interactions. Jack's relationship with the slave Moze, a father figure to him who cemented much of Jack's sense of morality, is fundamental to the story and Jack reflects on and uses Moze's wisdom to guide his actions throughout the book; these are some of my favorite parts. I'm impressed by Fenske's ability to write an anti-racist story (which we all need right now) from the POV of a Confederate -- that takes some skilled writing!

Another thing I love about this book is the history. A historian by training, Fenske sticks to facts and brings them to life. I had the opportunity to learn about the Civil War in Texas, which I've never known much about. But beyond that, the history is brought to life; the writing is realistic and engaging, and I never found myself wondering whether details were historically accurate. Mostly, though, I love that he could bring the sentiments of the times to life, and how he offers plausible motivations. His characters are real people with nuanced views, and I root for Jack the whole time even though he's a Confederate... I find it very interesting the way Jack justifies fighting for injustice:
"Vanita told me I was going to be fighting to free the slaves. She said she'd seen it because the South wasn't ever going to win this war, but it was necessary because slavery was never going to end without a fight." (179)

I can't forget the witch aspect here. The books is a blend of history and the paranormal. I don't believe in witches, but I do believe in God, his angels, and the Saints, so the idea of a supernatural being protecting Jack so he can fulfill his part in a fight for justice, as roundabout as it seems, is something I just get. It makes sense to me.

This book is the whole package: entertainment, history, existential truths. With a witch!
14 reviews1 follower
June 23, 2021
A Confederate Cavalryman

Very interesting recounting of the travails of war from the perspective of an underage enlistee in the Texas Cavalry of the Confederacy. Along with the unusual way he came to be protected from harm throughout his life, this novel is full of interesting history and surprising tales.
Profile Image for Marianne Reese.
Author 14 books6 followers
April 24, 2020
A historical fictional story set during the Civil War with an added mystical twist told from the eyes and heart of a boy.

At the height of the Civil War, a young boy named Jack escapes the wrath of his abusive drunken father, and leaves home to join the calvary. During his service he befriends other soldiers, and lives the harsh, yet often times, rewarding life of a soldier. Sworn to protect young Jack, a mystical slave woman plays a prevalent role in his evolving military career and adventures.

A captivating fictional book for teens and adults that touches on history, but not in a ‘history lesson’ kind of way. The characters are well developed and relatable making for an enjoyable and interesting read.
Profile Image for Peter Guzzardi.
Author 2 books12 followers
April 24, 2020
I enjoyed this first-person account of a young man who runs away from a violent, hard-drinking father and joins up to fight in the Civil War. His kindness to a slave pays off in many ways, including an encounter with an old woman who offers him supernatural protection in the form of a little bag he carries with him. A short, entertaining read.
10 reviews
April 13, 2021
Interesting subject

I really enjoyed this book, it was a very interesting read. I enjoy civil war era books but have never read any with such an unusual backstory. Definitely kept me reading just to see what would happen next. Great cast of characters throughout the book too, always wondering who would help Captain Jack next on his adventures.
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews

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