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The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar Paperback – October 19, 2016
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"Carolingian Europe comes alive in Kim Rendfeld's sweeping story offamily and hope, set against the Saxon Wars. Her transportive andtriumphant novel immerses us in an eighth century world that feels bothmystical and starkly real."--Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye
"A captivating historical filled with rich detail, compelling characters,and a well-paced plot that keeps the pages turning to its verysatisfying end. A true delight for fans of historical fiction. Icouldn't put it down."--Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi Mysteries
"The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar is refreshingly set in a less familiar medieval period--soon afterCharlemagne has conquered a portion of today's Germany and its people.The characters are refreshing also, common folk instead of the lords and ladies who are the usual inhabitants of historical novels, and how they adjust to their new condition is fascinating. Altogether, this book was absorbing from start to finish."--Roberta Gellis, author of TheRoselynde Chronicles
From the Author
In The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar, Leova must grapple with why her gods let a holy monument burn and how to protect her children when she's lost everything--her husband, her home, her faith, even her freedom.
This novel gives readers a little told side of the early Middle Ages. When source documents depict pagans as brutes, treat war captives like war booty, and rarely mention peasants at all, historical fiction such as The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar fills a gap. In fact, it might be the only way to see historical events, including Charlemagne's destruction of a pillar sacred to the Continental Saxon peoples, through the eyes of pagans and peasants.
Although separated from Leova by more than 1,200 years, modern readers will identify with her as she sacrifices her own honor for the sake of her children. They will grieve with her at the pyres of her loved ones, understand her desire for justice against the relatives who betrayed her, and agonize with her as she tries to determine who is friend and who is foe.
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At the start of the book, the lead character and her children are sold into slavery following a Saxon defeat. Rendfeld does a superb job of making us both understand the character’s situation and giving her character’s realistic responses to it. Her heroine, for example, repeatedly makes decisions and choices that are not particularly heroic, but practical, believable and understandable in the circumstances. As the book progresses, the focus shifts to the children, but again they behave like teenagers, not fantasy heroes.
Another strength of this book is the way Rendfeld describes the ambiguous feelings and complicated beliefs of people who convert to Christianity to save their lives. The characters are not give a systematic introduction to Christianity and have to learn just by living among Christians and attending services and ceremonies in a language they do not understand. Yet Rendfeld avoids the pitfall of making Christianity better or worse than what came before. It is, for the characters, just a different set of superstitions and rites which are more or less as effective as the old ones.
Despite these many strengths, I found the style of writing somewhat wooden and the character development shallow. Essentially, the plot alone drives the book forward and the circumstances of the characters determines their actions. Most disappointing of all, however, was the last fifth of the book in which all problems are resolved, all evil characters punished and all good characters rewarded with a “happily ever after” ending. That’s too trite for my tastes. Much as I wanted a positive turn of events for the protagonists, this was just too neat and pretty and fairy-tale like for me. Obviously, others may like it just that way.
Once again, out of her dedicated in-depth research and passion for the early medieval period, Kim Rendfeld offers a unique perspective of the political, religious and social intricacies of 8th century Saxony and Francia. Her style is almost folky at times, which off-sets the heaviness of some of the events, and offers interesting characterizations while effectively portraying this long ago world of walled cities and wild landscapes to the senses as well as the intellect. She takes the reader on an engaging voyage of small lives growing larger in order to navigate the stormy seas that threaten over and over to capsize their way forward.
In the end it is a timeless story about forgiveness and faith—of how circumstances can force behavior, enemies can become allies, conscience can break down barriers, and devotion, like the Irminsul, Heaven’s Pillar in the title, cannot be destroyed when held fast in the heart.
The author's thorough research deepens the story and makes both characters and setting feel very real and authentic. Charlemagne's reign is unfamiliar territory to many, but this book illuminates the time without burying the reader in unnecessary details. There's plenty of solid information here, but it is all presented subtly, as an integral part of the story.
I heartily recommend this deeply satisfying book.
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Kim Rendfeld, an American author, spun a spectacular historical tale called, The Ashes...Read more