Like Bilbo Baggings in The Hobbit, Adam the farmhand in An Innocent Soldier by Josef Holub involuntarily takes a long and dangerous journey to the east with a large party intent on plunder. Also like Bilbo he becomes a thief reluctantly, but he must to survive. There are no riddles, rings, or magical creatures, but he gets lost in the woods, crosses difficult rivers, and meets villains so evil they might as well be trolls. Unlike in The Hobbit, the way home is more dangerous than the outbound trip, and Adam is given no reward for his service.
An Innocent Soldier is a historical novel written for teens about Napoleon's disastrous campaign against Russia in 1812. Readers get the account of a teen swept into Le Grand Armee against his will, and see the cruelty, corruption, and mismanagement of the venture through his eyes. Uniforms that do not fit, pointless duties, near starvation, and lots of snow are part of the epic story, as are friendship and the generosity of strangers.
Thanks to Maggie at Maggie Reads for recommending this book, which was written by an author who was himself a teenage soldier in World War II. It should be in every public library.
Holub, Josef. An Innocent Soldier. Translated by Michael Hofmann. New York: Alfred A. Levine Books, 2005. ISBN 0439627710