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The Cross And The Dragon
In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received a free paperback of this book from the author
in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post,
and the thoughts are my own.
This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
Today, July 11th, Western Christians, and most especially monks and nuns, Benedictines, Cistercians, Trappists, and more, celebrate Saint Benedict, who wrote a Rule for monks and nuns in the 6th century.
I’m glad to join the festivities my own way, by writing this review and introducing you to The Cross And The Dragon, a great historical novel where you will indeed meet some Benedictine sisters – I will let it vague here, for fear of including spoilers.
The story is set a bit later, at the end of the 8th century.
As a French kid, I have heard often mention of Roland (Hruodland in Frankish – spelling used in the book ), a Frankish military leader under Charlemagne. We always associate him with the Battle of Roncevaux, where he supposedly died in 778 according to the legend. And really all we know about him, about his famous sword Durendal, his horse Veillantif, and his oliphant horn, is only found in legends that developed around his figure in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; the most famous being the Old French Chanson de Roland (11th century).
So as a starter, it was really neat to find a historical novel on such a figure, and on that period as a whole – I don’t think there are that many modern historical novels on the Franks in the 8th century.
Hruodland’s young wife Alda had some very bad premonitions against the military mission that sent her husband to Roncevaux. But as a woman of her time, she has a very strong faith, both in her Christian God, and in her pagan deities. Will the cross, and/or her dragon amulet she gave him before he left protect him? Did he really die, as the legend tells us modern readers, or did her love and faith managed to change history?
You will have to read the book to know of course. Apart from this mystery, you fill find some pretty nasty jealousies, set in the context of arranged marriages of the time. Just as a hint, life was not all honky-dory for Alda, and she had to make some tough decisions.
The book is rich with historical details on Charlemagne’s relatives – I suggest you write down the names as you read and draw the genealogy, to keep track of who is who. It’s also a lot about relationships with neighboring lands and tribes as we could still call them at the times. Tough tines for the Franks, who have to battle against both the Lombards and the Saxons.
I really enjoyed this book a lot. I felt it was extremely well researched, historically speaking, but also with lots of details on daily lives, on food and clothes, for instance. The characters, both men and women, soldiers, wives or nuns, have very strong characters and are richly defined.
If like me you read Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon chronicles, this book is an excellent opportunity to see things from the Frankish perspective just a bit later on. Written by a woman, it has also less gory scenes, though some are graphic enough, as is necessary to reflect the violence of the days. Both Cornwell’s and Rendfeld’s books witness as well to a religious time when the Christian and the pagan faiths were coexisting rather than being strongly set as opponents.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
If it weren’t for feminism, Kim Rendfeld would be one of those junior high English teachers scaring the bejesus out of her students, correcting grammar to the point of obnoxiousness. Instead, her career has been in journalism, public relations, and now fiction.
Rendfeld grew up in New Jersey and attended Indiana University, where she earned a BA in journalism and English, with a minor in French. She was a journalist for almost 18 years at Indiana newspapers, including the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, The Muncie Star, and The News and Sun in Dunkirk, and won several awards from the Hoosier State Press Association.
Her career changed in 2007, when she joined the marketing and communications team at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Rendfeld gets paid to agonize over commas and hyphens, along with suggesting ways to improve writing, and thoroughly enjoys it. She is proud to have been part of projects that have received national recognition.
Rendfeld, a proud member of the Historical Novel Society, lives in Indiana with her husband and their spoiled cats. The couple has a daughter and three granddaughters.
Note to the media outlets and bloggers: You have Kim’s permission to excerpt her biography and use her photo appropriately. You are also welcome to use a larger head shot and artistic images. Please contact Kim if you need more info. [from her page]
You’re welcome to check out the reviews, an excerpt, the first chapter or the book extras on Shelfari. You can also read Kim’s blog, where she opines mostly about history and writing, like Kim on Facebook, follow Kim on Twitter, connect with Kim on Goodreads, and visit Kim’s Amazon page.
HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK?
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE HISTORICAL NOVEL
ON THE 8TH CENTURY?
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