Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Cross and the Dragon by Kim Rendfeld

A tale of love in an era of war and blood feuds.

Francia, 778: Alda has never forgotten Ganelon's vow of vengeance when she married his rival, Hruodland. Yet the jilted suitor's malice is nothing compared to Alda's premonition of disaster for her beloved, battle-scarred husband.

Although the army invading Hispania is the largest ever and King Charles has never lost a war, Alda cannot shake her anxiety. Determined to keep Hruodland from harm, even if it exposes her to danger, Alda gives him a charmed dragon amulet.

Is its magic enough to keep Alda's worst fears from coming true--and protect her from Ganelon?

In Kim Rendfeld’s debut novel, set in eighth-century Europe, the heroine Alda faces a dilemma common to many marriageable heiress of the Middle Ages: submission to a husband chosen for her by others. Alda is a spitfire with a sharp wit and keen intelligence to match her spirited personality. She relies on an inherent strength and a charmed dragon amulet to fortify herself against the proposed husband, the ruthless Count Ganelon, and protect Hruodland, the proud Breton warrior who has likewise claimed her affections. Her commitment never wavers, although the rigid expectations of medieval, male-dominated society often stand in her way. Ganelon angrily refuses to accept her rejection. His dogged pursuit ensures trouble for Alda and Hruodland’s marriage.

Although Hruodland claims Alda for his own, their mutual devotion remains threatened, thanks to the connivance of his family. As the relation of King Charles the Great, better known throughout history as Charlemagne, Hruodland faces grave responsibility for the protection of his domain and the duty to sire heirs. Has he married a woman who is incapable of helping him fulfill the latter task? Before Hruodland and Alda can become parents, warfare takes him far from her and leads her to desperate choices that affect more than just her future.   

Part of the enjoyment of this novel comes from the author’s ability to create an authentic sense of time and place. She weaves a powerful tale out of a few strands of history, encapsulated in the epic poem The Song of Roland. Despite scant details mired in legend, there is great emphasis on a vivid portrayal of the medieval period. The author truly brings it to life. Alda and Hruodland’s mutual courage is equally inspiring. Both are representative of the viewpoints and attitudes of people in the Middle Ages. The Cross and the Dragon is a great debut from an author who clearly understands the period and its myriad personalities well.