Review: The Cross and the Dragon by Kim Rendfeld

crossKim 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

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Holiday Picks from The Queen’s Quill

I am finally finishing The Cross and the Dragon. I do apologize for taking so long. I hope to have a review up by the end of this week.

Since it’s the holiday season, and books are always a good gift (if you are part of the gift-giving crowd), here is a roundup of my favorite Indie review books from 2012. Honestly, the books I am listing were all engaging and engrossing reads–and the narratives and settings were so varied–that I simply cannot chose just one to recommend as an overall best book. This was a great year for Indie reading!

Spirit of Lost Angels-Liza Perrat

Vivaldi’s Muse-Sarah Bruce Kelly

Burning Silk– Destiny Kinal

Sea Witch-Helen Hollick

Oleanna-Julie K. Rose

The Afflicted Girls-Suzy Witten

Happy Holidays and I will see you at the end of the week for the next review.

Coming Up Soon: Review of Liza Perrat’s The Spirit of Lost Angels

I am nearing the end of The Spirit of Lost Angels and hope to post a review before I go to London for the HNS Conference next Thursday. I will definitely blog from the conference about all the wonderful participants, the panel sessions, and the medieval banquet on Saturday night. I, along with Sarah Johnson (Reading the Past) will be attending Margaret George’s talk at the Tower of London on Monday evening. There is so much to do still before I go!

After completing Lost Angels, I will be shifting the schedule a little to read Kim Zollman Rendfeld’s The Cross and the Dragon, “a tale of revenge, sacrifice, and enduring love set in the Kingdom of the Franks during the beginning of Charlemagne’s reign”*– Sarah Johnson has just interviewed Kim Rendfeld on her blog, Reading the Past, and it makes for some fascinating reading about the author’s thinking behind the writing of the book. Visit the page here: http://readingthepast.blogspot.com/2012/09/an-interview-with-kim-rendfeld-author.html

Thus, the October review will be The Cross and the Dragon. Thank you to the author for going out of her way to send me a printed copy of her book at my request.

*quote from Sarah’s interview