Customer Reviews for

The Cross and the Dragon

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Posted June 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    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.

    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.

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  • 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. 




    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. 

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  • Posted January 6, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    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.




    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. 

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