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The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar
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|The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar
by Kim Rendfeld
Publisher: Fireship Press
Release Date: August 28, 2014
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MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
For once, let me tell you about some personal background here.
I discovered Kim Rendfeld three years ago and wrote a review of The Cross And The Dragon. So last April when I was approached by Fireship Press to review her latest book, I said yes right away, not really bothering to read the synopsis: as I wrote recently about Murakami, with some authors I like very much, I actually prefer to jump into the book knowing nothing about it.
You may remember that in March, I had completed my translation of a long historical novel into French, Orgueil et honneur, by Nathaniel Burns. It was a fascinating book on Widukind and Charlemagne and the key battles between the Saxons and the Franks. I enjoyed a lot the book and doing the translation, even though the publisher has yet to send me one cent for my hard work –more about that another time!
So what a happy surprise when I finally got to start reading Kim’s novel, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, and discovered there Widukind, Father Sturm and other characters I had been so close to while translating Burns’ book! I am still shocked I was intrigued by the title and never thought for a second it was referring to the famous Irminsul!! The Irminsul was the sacred tree maybe, site for sure, for the Saxons and their pagan religion. Led by Charlemagne, the Franks destroyed it in 772.
Set on this background, Kim presents us the life of a Saxon family, their hardships and how they ended up living in Francia.
During that famous battle between the Saxons and the Franks when the Irminsul was destroyed, Leova loses her husband Derwine. She is left with her young children, her daughter Sunwynn, 9 and her boy Deorlaf, 12. Objects of the meanness of her sister in law Ealdgyth and her son Wulfgar, Leova and her children end up sold as slaves to be taken away by the Franks. Deolaf is old enough to figure out what’s going on, and he swears to avenge his father’s death and his family’s tragedy. Later on, events will separate them. Will he be able to find his mother and sister, and arrive in time to protect them from more foes and woes?
You will need to read the book to discover for yourself. I highly recommend you to do so.
This book is so rich in historical and cultural details about two clashing cultures, at a key period: if things hard turned differently, Europe would look totally different today I believe.
With cultures comes religion, and it’s a fascinating period when Christianity and paganism live side by side and mix more often than not in faith, symbols, and behaviors. This was also very well illustrated through Leova’s doubts about her former Saxon gods.
There’s also reference to Islam, as it is also the time when some emirs came to ask for Charlemagne’s help in Hispania.
There are lots of details on the Frankish cities where Leova and her family get to live: Nevers, le Mans, and Rennes.
There are some interesting descriptions on how some very poor people (see Deorlaf’s group) try to survive and other aspects of daily life there at the time.
It is also the beautiful portrait of a woman and was she accepts to in order to try to protect her children.
One thing that did not work totally for me was the ending: I thought too many things suddenly happened, things got wrapped up too quickly for me, and maybe it is too nice of a happy ending. But it remains an excellent historical novel that you should definitely try, to change from the usual Tudor period!
And I personally missed not seeing more of Widukind, but he is actually quite an illusive figure in history, and I understand Kim’s perspective was to show us that period through the specific situation of one family. If you want to read about the same period more on the battle field, read Burns’ book, if possible in my French translation of course!
VERDICT: Tired of hearing too often of the Tudors? Why not look at historical fiction set in France in the 8th century? Rendfeld’s novel is the perfect book to introduce you to a key period in the formation of Europe. Following Leova’s family, get to know the Franks and the Saxons, and what it was like to live in the shadow of Charlemagne.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
Can love triumph over war?
772 AD: Charlemagne’s battles in Saxony have left Leova with nothing but her two children, Deorlaf and Sunwynn. Her beloved husband died in combat. Her faith lies shattered in the ashes of Irminsul, the Pillar of Heaven. The relatives obligated to defend her and her family sell them into slavery instead.
In Francia, Leova is resolved to protect her son and daughter, even if it means sacrificing her own honor. Her determination only grows stronger as Sunwynn blossoms into a beautiful young woman attracting the lust of a cruel master, and Deorlaf becomes a headstrong man willing to brave starvation and demons to free his family. Yet Leova’s most difficult dilemma comes in the form of a Frankish friend, Hugh. He saves Deorlaf from a fanatical Saxon and is Sunwynn’s champion — but he is the warrior who slew Leova’s husband.
Set against a backdrop of historic events, including the destruction of the Irminsul, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar explores faith, friendship, and justice. This companion to Kim Rendfeld’s acclaimed The Cross and the Dragon tells the story of an ordinary family in extraordinary circumstances. [provided by the publisher]
Advance Praise for The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar
“Carolingian Europe comes alive in Kim Rendfeld’s sweeping story of family and hope, set against the Saxon Wars. Her transportive and triumphant novel immerses us in an eighth century world that feels both mystical and starkly real.” – Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye
“A captivating historical filled with rich detail, compelling characters, and a well-paced plot that keeps the pages turning to its very satisfying end. A true delight for fans of historical fiction. I couldn’t put it down.” — Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi Mysteries
“The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is refreshingly set in a less familiar medieval period – soon after Charlemagne has conquered a portion of today’s Germany and its people. The characters are refreshing also, common folk instead of the lords and ladies who are the usual inhabitants of historical novels, and how they adjust to their new condition is fascinating. Altogether, this book was absorbing from start to finish.” – Roberta Gellis, author of The Roselynde Chronicles
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim Rendfeld has a lifelong fascination with fairy tales and legends,
which set her on her quest to write The Cross and the Dragon.
She grew up in New Jersey and attended Indiana University,
where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English,
with a minor in French.
If it weren’t for feminism,
she 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.
Kim was a journalist for almost twenty years at Indiana newspapers,
including the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, The Muncie Star, and The News and Sun in Dunkirk,
and she 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.
She 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.
Kim lives in Indiana with her husband, Randy, and their spoiled cats.
They have a daughter and three granddaughters.
To read the first chapters of either novel or learn more about Kim,
You’re also welcome to visit her blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist at kimrendfeld.wordpress.com,
like her on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld,
or follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld,
or contact her at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.
HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK YET?
DO YOU LIKE STORIES AROUND CHARLEMAGNE?
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