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The Cross and the Dragon

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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  • Posted August 15, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    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.

    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.

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  • Posted February 26, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    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. 

    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.  

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  • 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.

    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.

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  • 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.

    (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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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