The Gauntlet Runner

A Tale from the French and Indian War

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
220 Pages
Reviewed on 04/09/2012
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Anne Boling for Readers' Favorite

S. Thomas Bailey transports readers back to the time of the French and Indian War. It was a fascinating time in history. Our tale begins near Black Creek where Maggie Murray lived in the family’s small cabin. Alone Maggie ran the farm. Her husband had enlisted in the Virginia Provincial Militia leaving her unprotected. Maggie knew how to “use a rifle and skin a deer,” but the hardship of the farm work and raising their children alone was starting to show on the once beautiful woman. Maggie was the best female shot in the area and put her talent to use when a Huron raiding party aided by the French attacked the cabin. The Murray cabin was not the only one attacked that day. The savages burned the cabins and took settlers prisoner.

I was unable to put this book down once I had started it. Bailey has captured the essence of the era in his account. Maggie, Joshua and One Ear are characters with great depth that march off the pages of this book into the hearts of the readers. The savagery of the Huron was something I had heard of but in this book I all but experienced it. The Huron’s not only conquered but humiliated and destroyed the men. Some of the women would be sold into slavery. We often forget that our nation was formed during a time of great violence. Brave men and women lead the way for the forming of a new nation. It cost many their lives. There is a lot more to this book than I have been able to touch on in a short summary. There is the mission of the militia, the English “proper” way to fight, and the desperation of a husband to find his beloved wife.

Bailey is an incredible writer and his long hours of research are evident. I could easily see this plot on the silver screen. I grew up watching Hawkeye, Daniel Boone and Davy Crocket. It is wonderful to read a high quality work of fiction about our country’s turbulent history. Mr. Bailey do not keep me waiting too long for the next installment of the Murrays.

Sylvia H.

They were pioneers looking for a place and a land to call their own: and within the backdrop of the French and Indian War, the different wild and highly uncivilized savage Indians tribes ruled the land. The Indian tribes such as the Hurons, the Shawnee and the Delaware also had the French as allies and together they formed a bond to torture and to ultimately destroy the American frontier families who were trying to take over the land that they held most dear. This, is the essence of author S. Thomas Bailey’s fictional historical tale, The Gauntlet Runner. Maggie Murray and her husband Jacob were in the midst of living a very rustic life in the frontier of the wilderness of Pennsylvania. Already encountering insurmountable hardships and the dangers to provide for their four young children, Jacob along with his twin Israel take up with the Virginia Provincial Militia for six months with the promise of receiving land for their service within the military. But one fateful day, Maggie and her sister-in-law Abbey are left helpless and defenseless against a vile and savage attack by the Indians and the French. And after being taken captive and forced to march against their will, and with their children being taken away to be raised in different Indian tribes, Maggie and Abbey must somehow muster the strength to stay alive while their husbands fight the very same enemy that has conquered them.

Set during a time in America when the majority of the continental United States was still left undiscovered and was vastly unknown, the early American settlers also known as pioneers set forth to pave a way through the dense and sparse wilderness. The Gauntlet Runner by author S. Thomas Bailey is one of those books that explore the many themes behind the French and the Indian War. And although fictional in account, S. Thomas Bailey told the story with remarkable clarity and vision. And although I thought that The Gauntlet Runner was very violent and graphic in detail, I really, really enjoyed reading this book. And even though American History has always been one of my favorite subjects, I really didn’t think that I would enjoy reading a fictional novel about the French and the Indian War. Surprisingly, not only did I discover that I really enjoyed this book; I found myself so intrigue and the story so riveting as such, I just couldn’t put this book down. And, at one point, I was so engrossed in the storyline, that I almost left my dinner to burn on the stove top. Author S. Thomas Bailey did a wonderfully fantastic job in describing and recreating what the frontier life must have been like for the families and for the men fighting with the different militia during that terrible time in history. I highly recommend reading The Gauntlet Runner for anyone with a love for American History, and for those with a wild sense of adventure that the storyline brings along with it. They will most certainly and most definitely not be left disappointed.

Brenda C

In 1754 Jacob Murray and his twin brother Israel leave their homes, wives and children to sign up for a six month stint with the Virginia Militia which is lead by George Washington, who is trying to secure the Ohio Valley against the French.Jacob quickly rises to the rank of Corporal and looks forward to battle, but when tragedy strikes Jacob rethinks his enlistment and wants to return home to his wife Maggie. Little does he know that shortly after he left home that farms in his area were raided by Huron Indians, and his family was taken captive. Will Jacob ever see his family again?

This novel takes the reader on an epic journey back in time when Indians still roamed the woods and the French and English were battling for control of the Ohio Valley. I found myself mesmerized with this story. The author weaves together enough fiction with facts to make for a very realistic story. There were two story lines going on with this book. One was the adventures of Jacob and his brother, and the other was the story of the captives and Maggie, which was actually my favorite parts of the story. There were a few unsettling descriptions of the treatment that the captives received from the Indians, but it lent a more realistic feel to the story. Not only did the author do a brilliant job of bringing the two story lines together he leaves the reader with a real cliffhanger that has this reader wanting to know the rest of the story! An added bonus for this book was the timeline of important events that he includes at the ending of the story.

Anyone who enjoys a very well researched, fictionalized story that gives a glimpse of early American history will certainly enjoy this one.

Trudi LoPreto

“The Gauntlet Runner” by S.Thomas Bailey is a winner for all who enjoy historical novels mixed with real life characters and events.

Jacob and Maggie Murray,living in Black Creek Valley, Pennsylvania, are the main characters of this book. Jacob and his twin brother Israel join the Virginia Provincial Militia and go off to fight the French American War. George Washington is the very young commander fighting his first battle. We share with Jacob the horrors of war, the loss of family and friends,the hunger and long treks of each individual battle. Maggie, her children and all of her neighbors are striving to keep the farms going until one awful day when the village is raided and taken captive by the French and Huron warriors. We feel Maggie’s pain as she is forced to walk many miles as a prisoner. We cry with her as her children are taken away. Breathe a sigh of relief when two young warriors befriend and protect her, making the journey just a little less frightening.

S. Thomas Bailey makes the battles vivid and real. The struggles of the early settlers and the hardships they endure become our own. We the reader are taken back in time to share the pulled apart lives, broken treaties and horrifying struggles faced by the early American settlers. As is still true today, we understand the sacrifices soldiers and their families are forced to live through.

This is a must read for all who enjoy historical history. I am hoping that Mr. Bailey is planning a Murray family saga and continues to share with us the lives of Jacob and Maggie.

Paul J.

Jacob Murray and his twin brother Israel volunteer to serve in the ranks of George Washington's Virginia Provincial Militia, scouting the Ohio Valley wilderness in early 1754. Back at home, Jacob's wife, Maggie, and their four children are taken, along with Isreal’s wife and children, by a French and Huron war party which raids their small farms. The families are unsure if they will live to see their husbands and fathers again. Word quickly spreads that French-backed Huron raiding parties are decimating the Pennsylvania countryside and taking many white captives. This sets the stage for twenty-two year old Major Washington, Jacob, and a French officer set on revenge to cross paths. This is a taut story of fractured lives, broken treaties, and the stark realities of the struggles faced by early American settlers as they risk their lives to expand the young, growing nation.

As a lover of historical fiction I found myself eager to read this book. The story is fast-paced and kept my interest throughout. In fact, the story is reminiscent of two of my favorite movies, Unconquered from 1947 and The Last of the Mohicans from 1992 both set in one of the most turbulent times of young America. The author goes into great detail describing the lives of the soldiers and settlers and the hardships they faced during this time period. The characters were well developed and the dialog was good. Occasionally I found the plot to be a tad simplistic sometimes repeating the same thought or descriptive detail a little too often. The action scenes, while quite violent, could have been spiced up to add a touch more suspense. This didn’t take anything away from the story. Overall I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it to any lover of historical fiction.