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Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Beyond the Book: Book Review The Hag Rider


This historical novel is basically a soldier’s story, written in a style modeled after authentic Civil War memoirs. Jack Benson’s boyish, matter-of-fact narrative relates an engrossing tale that recounts his origins, his military experiences, and the paranormal forces that protect him–through the auspices of The Hag Rider, a powerful sorceress. She is a slave practitioner of Hoodoo, and has sworn an oath to protect young Jack.

 Jack is a product of his times, despite his anti-slavery feelings. Although he is not enmeshed in the political issues of the day, he finds himself drawn into the conflict by the fiery rhetoric and war fever surrounding him. He lies about his age to join the Confederate Cavalry, but, his primary allegiance is to his fellow brothers-in-arms. Through it all, The Hag Rider works her magic to help Jack in amazing ways, across countless miles, through routine service, patrols, battle, and capture.

This is not a story about generals, tactics, or battles, it is a tale about a young soldier facing manhood, amidst the backdrop of both history and other forces he cannot quite understand. 

My Review:

This book is set in Civil War Texas, which I for one didn’t know much about. I had heard of hag riding before though. I looked up a formal definition for you and this is the way it was described: This term refers to a frightening sensation of being held immobile in bed, often by a heavy weight pressing on one’s stomach or chest. It is now recognized medically under the name ‘sleep paralysis’; it can be accompanied by the sense of an alien presence, and by visual hallucinations. The ‘hag’ or witch in this case is an old slave woman named Vanita who promised that she’d keep our hero Jack safe through the war. Her influence even extends as far as New York where Jack at one time finds himself a prisoner of war. 

The book discussed the social issues of the day, which are quite similar to those we face today. Jack, our young recruit, thinks slavery is wrong and owes a lot of his morals and character development to a slave named More, but he joins the Confederacy anyway. Vanita explains to him that in this case war is necessary because without it change can’t come. You’ll be reading about Vanita all through the book, but I didn’t guess her revelation at the end.

The history seems well researched, and the voice sounds authentic. I enjoyed this story of an ordinary Civil War soldier with a little supernatural help.

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