cover image The Angel and the Sword

The Angel and the Sword

Cecelia Holland / Author Forge $23.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-312-86

The prolific Holland (Jerusalem; Valley of the Kings, etc.), a commanding voice in the historical fiction genre, succeeds once again in illuminating a darkly glorious piece of the past, in this epic tale of warrior princesses and avenging angels set in ninth-century medieval Europe. Fluidly written and energetically paced, the story opens on Queen Ingunn's deathbed. The monarch's final wish is for her only child, Ragny, as the last remaining descendant of the line of Roderick, to claim her rightful position and become the new queen of Spain. King Markold, the queen's estranged husband and Ragny's disreputable father, plans to marry his daughter and claim the throne. Strong-willed Ragny escapes Markold and is pursued by Markold's sergeant, Seffrid. She convinces Seffrid to become her ally, cuts off her hair and escapes to Francia. Disguised as a man, Ragny, now known as Roderick, possesses the strength of a true warrior. And she has a secretDshe is protected by her guardian angel. With flashing sword, Ragny/Roderick saves a group of monks and the handsome Frankish knight, Leovild, from bandits; in return they take the fearless maiden and Seffrid to meet the king of Francia, Charles the Bald. A bloody medieval duel caps this tale of epic battles and heavenly light. Little distinguishes it from similar sagas, but Holland consistently satisfies her readers, and the book should prove a surefire, if fleeting, antidote to winter doldrums. (Dec.)