Review: The Cross and the Dragon by Kim Rendfeld

Under Charlemagne’s reign, Francia was no stranger to war. War was just part of every day life in 773, but so were romance and chivalry. Alda’s brother, Count Alfihar of Drachenhaus, is starting marriage negotiations for her to wed the wealthy and good looking, but cruel Count Ganelon of Dormagen.

Alda has no desire to marry Ganelon at all, she would rather wed another….Prince Hruodland, heir to the March of Brittany but alas he is of royal blood and far above the reach of a Countess. But yet Alda and her uncle can’t help but sense Hruodland is more than interested in Alda’s hand.

Ganelon is jealous of the friendship between Alda and Hroudland, not to mention the two families have has an ongoing blood feud for years….everytime Ganelon and Hruodland meet, they clash and usually over Alda.

War calls the men to ride to Lombardy to fight the Lombards leaving the women behind at Drachenhaus. Alda prays for the safe return of her brother and Hruodland…..NOT Ganelon, she only prays that it’s God’s will that he falls.

In the fall, all of the men return to Drachenhaus….even Ganelon but clearly something has changed. Alfihar no longer seems keen on Alda marrying Ganelon. Alfihar begins secret negotiations for Hruodland to wed Alda instead and when Ganelon discovers it no one is safe from the wrath of his slight.

Ganelon leaves promising vengeance while Alda and Hruodland are happily married. The years pass and Alda still has not provided Hruodland with an heir. At court rumors circulate that Alda is barren and soon many wonder how long before Hruodland annuls the marriage.

Before anything can happen, the King decided to march on Hispania….though Alda pleads with Hruodland not to go, she knows he cannot refuse. She gives him her charmed dragon amulet and tells him to wear it always as it will protect him from all harm. As he rides away she can’t help but wonder if it’s the last time she will see him….he rides to war with her brother and….Ganelon.

This book really intrigued me when I read the summary. There aren’t many historical fiction novels set in this era…some or the most popular eras are Regency, Tudor, Victorian, WWII etc. So seeing a novel set in the time of Charlemagne, my interest was perked.

I thought the setting/period brought a lot of interest to the story for me. Rendfeld clearly did her research on the time period and I thought it was exciting to read about the different era and location…most Medieval-ish books are set in England not France or the Rheinlands.

My biggest issue with the book were the Frankish names….I have no idea how to pronounce them and found it distracting for me as a reader. Names are so important for me when I’m reading….I really connect with the characters that way and to not know how their name is supposed to sound was distracting for me. However I do realize that the names were meant to convey authenticity to the story, period, and location/culture so all in all it was appropriately placed but for me personally I struggled.

I wasn’t familiar with the any of the legends or folklore that the story was based on (Siegfried) so I did have to do a little research as I was reading to familiarize myself with it.

I thought Alda was a likable heroine and Hruodland fit the knight in shining armor cliche….at times I didn’t like Hruodland that well especially when he suspected Alda of cheating on him, but at the same time that made the story more believable…if he was too perfect then I would have thought he didn’t fit within the era so over all I liked both the hero and heroine and could relate to them.

Ganelon on the other hand I loathed! Rendfeld did a great job making the audience really despise Ganelon. I was not sad at all about his fate.

I would have liked to have seen a little more build up to the show down between Ganelon and Hruodland. So much of the novel was about how they hated each other and how all Hruodland wanted to do was get his vengeance….so I guess I was expecting more in the end….the ending seemed a little anticlimactic for me.

This book was a nice easy read, and if you know this historic period well you will do fine but if not you might struggle a bit but that doesn’t mean if you aren’t familiar with the period you won’t like it….it just means theres a bit to learn to fully appreciate the richness of the story. Now that I’ve Googled more about this period and the legend that the novel is loosely based on, I might go back and re-read this novel so I can fully appreciate the historic significances.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: The Cross and the Dragon by Kim Rendfeld

  • Paperback, 356 pages
  • Published July 15th 2012 by Fireship Press
  • ISBN1611792274 (ISBN13: 9781611792270)
  • Review copy provided by: the author, in exchange for an honest review

This book counts toward: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2013

Recommendation: 4 out of 5 (an original story based on legend set in a unique period)

Genre: Historic fiction

Memorable lines/quotes:

A woman is not forgiven for having a lover, no matter how unhappy she is.

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