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Posted August 15, 2013
The mark of good historical fiction, in my opinion anyway, is th
The mark of good historical fiction, in my opinion anyway, is the detail. Ms. Rendfeld paid particular attention to detail in The Cross and the Dragon. The result is an epic tale of a warrior and his wife during the medieval ages when Charlemagne ruled.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
In The Cross and the Dragon, Ms. Rendfeld took a legend and built a story around it using all the historical detail of the time. There are the politics in the court of King Charles (Charlemagne), battles among the Frankish, the Saxons, the Bretons and others, and even blood feuds between families. These elements are woven around religious beliefs, superstitions and the daily minutiae of life. All these elements combined for a stunning and captivating tale.
Our hero, Hroudland, is a mighty warrior and the prefect of the March of Brittany. He's noble and just, the nephew of the king. And he wins the hand of Alda. He loves her although at times he wonders at her fidelity.
Alda is now one of my favorite heroines of all time. I admire female characters who stand up against social expectations, and Alda does this, usually in colorful fashion. She is cunning and clever, very strong-willed, and speaks her mind. She also loves Hroudland dearly.
Ganelon, our villain, is a spiteful, hateful man with absolutely no redeeming qualities. He's the perfect antagonist. Interestingly, I believe him to be portrayed realistically as a typical noble man of the time. The lengths he goes to for revenge for his family are shocking and prove his wickedness.
Ms. Rendfeld created a strong cast of supporting characters. Alda's mother, Theodelinda, is one of my favorites if only for her having raised a daughter like Alda. Leonhard and Beringar, Alda's uncles, leap from the pages as larger than life. Gerard, Hroudland's brother, earned a place in my heart as well, as he was a kind and decent man. Hroudland's uncles, involved in religious politics, were vipers, always trying to stir up trouble for Hroudland and Alda.
I adored Hroudland and Alda's story. The way Ms. Rendfeld used the myth of Roland to shape their story was captivating. Alda, too, has legend swirling around her family. She is of Drachenhaus, which is built on a mountain where Siegfried is said to have slayed the dragon and covered himself in blood to make himself invincible. It's all the detail that made this story so fascinating. I appreciate all the detail, from the tension emanating between Hroudland and Ganelon, the armies believing they were victorious because they were fighting for God's will, all the way down to the mud squishing under Alda's shoes at Nonnenwirth, the detail enveloped me and kept me ensconced in the medieval times of this story.
With the characters so well fleshed out, entrenched in the historical happenings of the time as well as the description of daily life on medieval men and women, The Cross and the Dragon is a lush, textured and very satisfying historical read.
Posted June 8, 2013
A trip to Germany, a story about castle ruins and an eleventh ce
A trip to Germany, a story about castle ruins and an eleventh century French epic planted the seeds that grew into this heroic but very human tale about political maneuvering, love, honor, betrayal and courage. Set amidst castles, priories, the countryside and battlefields of France, Germany and Spain in the time of Charlemagne, this well-researched-and-structured work is an interesting and affecting read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Ms. Rendfeld’s fascination with legends and fairy tales shines through. Essentially a love story, the novel revolves around Alda, a willful young woman who believes - insists! - she can gratify her heart's desire and filial duty. Her beloved Hroudland is a brave, sensitive but sometimes erratic man whose loyalty to her is tested and threatened by a volatile rival, family objections, questions about Alda's fidelity, a long separation and recovery from near fatal wounds, and even the prospect of him having to relinquish his rightful inheritance.
Ms. Rendfeld adeptly meets the challenge she set for herself: `to portray history and politics without bogging down the story.' The narrative never loses its way or feels laden with historical particulars. It is enriched by how seamlessly Ms. Rendfeld shares her in-depth knowledge of the political environment's alliances and enmities, as well as the food, clothing, customs, mores, religious and paganistic habits of the period. The descriptions of the aftermath of warfare, especially regarding its human toll, are particularly effective and heart-wrenching.
Written with an understanding that in the early medieval world privilege didn't shield one from the harsh realities of physical hardships, war, shifting fortunes or human frailties, this is a story about endurance of the body and spirit, moving from the hopes of innocence to the resilience of maturity, and concluding with a sense that the head cannot go wrong when guided by the heart.
Posted February 26, 2013
In 8th century France, in the era of Charlemagne, Alda¿s family
In 8th century France, in the era of Charlemagne, Alda’s family is negotiating a marriage between her and the handsome Count Ganelon of Dormagen. She does everything she can to prevent the match, for Ganelon is known for his cruelty and abuse towards women, children, and servants. The man she loves is Prince Hruodland, a man of royal blood whose family has been feuding with that of Ganelon’s for decades. Soon Hruodland and Alda fall in love and she convinces her family to abandon marriage negotiations with Ganelon and arrange a union with Hruodland. Slighted, Ganelon swears vengeance upon them.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Happily married, Alda and Hruodland desire a child, but she remains barren. As the years pass, rumors abound that Hurodland will let her aside. When he rides off to war, Alda gives Hruodland a dragon charm to protect him from harm and prays he will safely return.
Novels set in the 8th century are rare, so it was a pleasure to happen upon this book. I found the book well written and the story compelling enough to keep me reading, hooked to the very end. It is evident the author did a great deal of research, using authentic names of that period and weaving the historical background into the tale. The characters were well developed, although there were times I didn’t always like them – i.e. Alda for striking servants and Hruodland who sometimes came across as insensitive and unreasonably jealous. The villain, however, was truly one to dislike – his cruel behavior consistent from start to finish. For an easy to read novel with a unique medieval setting, this is definitely a book that will please. I definitely recommend it, especially for those who enjoy medieval fiction.
Posted February 23, 2013
Arranged marriages are a way of life in 8th century France. Alda
Arranged marriages are a way of life in 8th century France. Alda knows this, but the thought of marrying the abusive and hateful Ganelon puts thoughts of joining a convent into her head. Serious thoughts. The only chance of escape seems wrapped up in Hruodland, the only one to show her respect and kindness. Plans begin to form in her mind to escape Ganelon and capture the attention of Hruodland, but this will put her on a path she never expected; one of love, pain, and difficult choices that may break her heart for good.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
The depth of reality captured in this book is commendable. The details of the homes, character's dress, politics, and religious beliefs were all carefully crafted. I had no problem putting myself in the time period and believing the events of the story.
The importance of this diligence to story was that decisions and reactions that may have seemed strange to modern readers made sense because the background and setting were so well developed. Even for those readers who are religious, some of the choices Alda makes based on her religious beliefs are hard to take. I was begging her to rethink her choices at times, but I knew she wouldn't, and couldn't because of the world she lived in. Even though I didn't want her to make certain choices, I would have been disappointed if she hadn't. All of the characters were very believable and realistic, which made their story so much more compelling.
The story overall was not what I expected at first. I had expected the courtship between Alda and Hruodland to last the majority of the book. There were several complications presented early on that it could have made it last, but in reality their courtship was actually a much smaller portion of the book. The rest focused on the struggles they faced after their marriage. For a while, I wasn't sure what the main theme of this book was. It took until about halfway through the book before I felt I really got to the meat of the conflict, but even though the pacing was a bit slower than I usually like, I was interested in their journey thanks to the great characters and well crafted development.
Aside from many of the characters' names being difficult to pronounce and a few fragmented scenes, my only real problem with the book was that I had a hard time connecting with Hroudland. He seemed to have quite intense mood swings that didn't always make sense to me and he was often easily swayed. His reactions were frequently hurtful to Alda. Others were able to see this, but he did not. This seemed to be more than a character flaw that made him more human. Alda made many choices that were difficult to take, but made sense because of her station and the time she lived. Hroudland just seemed slightly unstable at times and it made it harder for me to like him.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, it had a strong background and well developed characters that readers will enjoy.
Who would I recommend this book to? Mainly historical fiction readers. I think this would be a harder book for readers new to historical fiction to start with because the pacing is a bit slower than most commercial novels and the complexity of the historical aspect.
Posted January 6, 2013
In Kim Rendfeld¿s debut novel, set in eighth-century Europe, the
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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.
Posted January 2, 2013
In Alda, Kim Rendfeld has created a woman who seems genuinely to
In Alda, Kim Rendfeld has created a woman who seems genuinely to be of her time, rather than the refugees from the 21st century one often sees populating historical fiction. Alda is intelligent and independent, but shares in the beliefs and prejudices of her culture.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
This well-researched novel is filled with rich, evocative descriptions of the natural environment, and the author shows a particular sensitivity to both sound and silence. The reader will come away having learned a great deal about life in Carolingian times - food, medicine, travel, fighting, and much more - as an integral part of the story itself, not just explained to the reader. The author has a gift for giving the reader a sense of time passing: the time a journey takes, the time required to send a message, time to recover from an injury or illness, time spent waiting for news or information.
If you aren't familiar with this time period, you'll appreciate the author's historical note at the end. It's comprehensive, clear, and concise. I hope that Kim Rendfeld will write more novels set in Carolingian times; it's a period underrepresented in historical fiction, and she knows it and writes it well.
Posted July 11, 2012
Susenseful and imaginative
The Cross and the Dragon is the story of Alda, wife of Hruodland, the Roland of medieval epic poetry. Rather than focus on the epic battle at Roncevaux, the book allows the reader to see what life was like for the women who stayed behind while the men went off to war. The author brings incredible, historically accurate detail into the service of place and character, so even if you know nothing about the Middle Ages, this page-turner will be a painless learning experience.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
(SPOILER ALERT) The author took inspiration from legends outside the medieval epic, such that Hruodland doesn't actually die at Roncevaux. The battle is only the beginning of the lovers' trials and tribulations as Hruodland tries to be reunited with Alda, who believes he is dead. The antagonist is so convincing in his irredeemable evil that even though I don't generally believe in revenge, I found his downfall immensely satisfying. This book has one of the tidiest, happiest endings I have read in years. (END SPOILERS)
I recommend this book for anyone who likes a good love story with their well-researched, atmospheric history.
Posted November 19, 2012
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