Kim Rendfeld’s The Cross and the Dragon is “a tale of love in an era of war and blood feuds” set in eighth-century Europe during the reign of Charlemagne. I dove right into this book before understanding the background and historical context—as the plot is so absorbing—and the further I read, the more familiar the plot seemed to me . . . at first I thought to myself that the “recognition” was from reading too many medieval romances this year . . . but no, there was much more to it. I have since discovered that The Cross and the Dragon was inspired by the romantic legend of Roland (The Song of Roland, an epic poem based on the Battle of Roncevaux in 778). That is why I was getting vague flashbacks of a similar plot! I read this epic poem as an undergraduate and remember feeling rather untouched by it, and that was a shame. Had I been assigned this historical novel alongside the epic poem, I would have been emotionally affected and inspired to read on… I would have learned the difference between fact and fiction during that era and appreciated the impact of the poem. Historical fiction could be such a boost to classroom learning…
Simply put, I enjoyed this book. The reasons? Engaging narrative. Steady pace. Strong, living characters. Evocative sense of place and time. A comforting return to the world of chivalry and morality, with defined heroes and villains. Obvious careful attention to research and detail. A touch of the spiritual. And a couple of chewy historical tidbits, one of which is the idea of a woman’s “plumpness” symbolizing femininity, attractiveness, and contentment during this time in history—modern readers may find this difficult to comprehend, given our twenty-first century obsession for attaining the near-anorexic body.
From an editorial perspective, the book has been well-edited—I don’t think I found a single typo! But Fireship Press is a small, independent, professional mainstream operation (and one of the small presses I work with in my new position), so one would expect quality editing. I also recall being among the numerous voters on facebook for this piece of cover art, so. . .
My only quibble–and it’s a minor one–is that I would have enjoyed if the relationships between characters had been delved into more deeply, but this is simply a personal preference. Given the historical context, the author’s choice of allowing the plot to take the driver’s seat is entirely appropriate.
If I have one constructive criticism I’d like to share, it is that, at times, the prose read a bit stiffly. The use of a string of simple sentences beginning with an article (a, an, the) in short portions of the narrative could become monotonous and temporarily distance the reader. More variation in the sentence structure could improve the reading flow. However, this did not lessen my enjoyment of the book. Not at all.
The Cross and the Dragon is an absorbing medieval treat.
The Cross and the Dragon by Kim Rendfeld. Published by Fireship Press, July 2012, as both an e-book and paperback. Visit the author’s website at http://kimrendfeld.wordpress.com/ or http://kimrendfeld.com/
Disclaimer: The author provided me with a print copy of her novel in exchange for a review