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The Edge On The Sword Paperback – 2002
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Authors: Rebecca Tingle Publisher: Scholastic Inc. Keywords: sword, edge Published: 2002 Language: English ISBN-10: 0439417961 ISBN-13: 9780439417969 Binding: Paperback (1St Edition) List Price: Unknown
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I always try and skim reviews before I read a book, just to get an opinion of whether the book is worth reading or not. I try not to read so much that the reviewer influences my opinion of the story, however. I know myself too well; I can be impressionable. A handful of reviews stated that the Edge on the Sword had a slow beginning that accumulated into a satisfying end. I agree. The very beginning of the book seems to be disconnected from the rest. When I began to read the first chapters, I flipped to the back to make sure I was reading the right story. I was puzzling over what a young girl sneaking in to the woods to meet her angry brother had anything to do with the 'greatest woman in Old English military history.' Stick with this book though, because very quickly we get to the good part. Aethelflad soons learns she will be betrothed to her father's trusted aldorman, Ethelred, a man as old as her father. Before she will be shipped off to marry Ethelred in a strange town, she has to be followed by the trusted servant of Ethelred. She slowly sees her freedom taken away as this new man scares her little sisters and limits her favorite walks into the forest. But Aethelflad isn't one to go down without a fight, leading her to use her wits against this servant and setting the scene for her brilliant military strategies she employs later.
The amount of historical detail that went into this novel is amazing. I loved the little touches of the Middle Ages scattered throughout the Edge on the Sword. Its easy to see that Rebecca Tingle went through a lot of work to make the book accurate. I'm not an expert on the Middle Ages, however, so don't take my word for it. She, at least, made me believe everything she wrote was correct. I think her characters' mindsets were correct for the time period, as well. Many authors try to write historical fiction, but their characters end up sounding like they were plucked from 2010. Aethelflad is a real Mercian woman, known in history as beloved by her people and a genius on the battlefield when she was forced to take over for her husband in his later years. She is a strong woman, without being a feminist that wouldn't have existed in those times. She may not have liked being engaged to an older stranger, but as a princess she would have know she had to submit to her father and king. She didn't run away from the problem but faced it head on, no matter how miserable that made her feel. Aethelflad is inspiring because when she knew she was right, she stood up for herself and when she thought she may be wrong, she stuck out her chin and plowed through the consequences anyway.
The only shortcoming of this novel is the cast of secondary characters. They left some things to be desired when it came to emotions. Towards the end, there should have been an extremely emotional scene with Aethelflad and her trusted servant, Red. I didn't even blink. I realized later I should have felt something during this scene, but I really didn't even register it. I found out as I was writing this review that there is a sequel, Far Traveller! I plan to read as soon as I can.
As a result of serious threats to Flaed's personal safety Alfred employs an envoy from Mercia, a former slave whose own king had betrayed him, as her personal bodyguard. Flaed enjoys reading ancient sagas and sneaking off to enjoy private time with her brother Edward, but her girlhood is drawing to a violent close. After a brush with abduction she grows to appreciate Red, her silent but faithful warder, and reluctantly accepts impending marriage to a man her father's age. But King Ethelred little suspects that his princess bride is also being trained in the arts of war; that she can ride a horse bareback, as well as wield a dagger, shield and sword. For Red realized before anyone else the critical need to teach her to defend her royal person.
The title and cover refer to more than just a female warrior earnest to be proactive in her own defense, for Flaed remembers the ancient words of warning that a person must always be ready for battle, and become a living Edge of any sword she bears. She comes of age in this captivating YA book--a bold heroine who accepts adult responsibility in times of crisis. How can she win the respect of the men who are to escort and protect her en route to Lunden? Based on a real warrior princess this novel of historical fiction presents an inspiring female protagonist. For young adults of all ages.