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The Brethren were teachers of literacy, Christian pacifists, reformers who traveled in small secret groups to liberate others. The church-state hunted them as them radicals and heretics, condemning their teachings and pacifism as a threat to the recruitment of armies. With their underground printing press, one small cell of idealists struggled to liberate others, and some came to love them. Capture meant torture and burning. How long could they hope to live?


Illiterate laborers and sharecroppers, living as slaves bonded by church-state law, they sent their sons to die in constant wars. But when the stubborn little group of Brethren suffer alongside them, and teach them to read, will villeins think freely for themselves? Will slaves accept the yoke, when they are liberated from the ignorance that has shackled them? Will they accept the ideals of Brethren, or become blind with rage?


A world is torn apart. In the disastrous chaos of the great German Peasant War, can faith and love endure? In a dungeon for the condemned and tortured, can the Brethren find strength in the hymns they create to comfort one another? Can those who love them survive and find hope?

"Thrilling and gripping! Bravo to the author!" - Judith Mandt, Bastei Luebbe Press, Germany - "Impressive" - Jack McCrae, Henry Holt - "The breadth and ambition of imagination are staggering." - Liz Van Hoose, Viking Penguin - "The sheer immensity of Villein's scope is entirely transporting. This story is the reason one is even able to read this story." - Sam Thomas, U. Oxford, Poets House