Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: "The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar" by Kim Rendfeld

Synopsis:  Can love triumph over war?
772 AD: Charlemagne’s battles in Saxony have left Leova with nothing but her two children, Deorlaf and Sunwynn. Her beloved husband died in combat. Her faith lies shattered in the ashes of Irminsul, the Pillar of Heaven. The relatives obligated to defend her and her family sell them into slavery instead.  In Francia, Leova is resolved to protect her son and daughter, even if it means sacrificing her own honor. Her determination only grows stronger as Sunwynn blossoms into a beautiful young woman attracting the lust of a cruel master, and Deorlaf becomes a headstrong man willing to brave starvation and demons to free his family. Yet Leova’s most difficult dilemma comes in the form of a Frankish friend, Hugh. He saves Deorlaf from a fanatical Saxon and is Sunwynn’s champion — but he is the warrior who slew Leova’s husband. Set against a backdrop of historic events, including the destruction of the Irminsul,

The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar explores faith, friendship, and justice. This companion to Kim Rendfeld’s acclaimed The Cross and the Dragon tells the story of an ordinary family in extraordinary circumstances.

My Thoughts:  The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar is unlike any book I have ever read.  I have read the companion novel but while The Cross and the Dragon focuses on the nobility, this book focuses on the regular people, servants and slaves living under the reign of Charlemagne.

Likes:  I loved the story.  Ms. Rendfeld has done a lot of research and created  a wonderful story surrounding a Saxon family as they deal with slavery, heartache and betrayal.  I enjoyed reading about everyday life and the issues that people had to deal with.    I know almost nothing about this era so I found the setting and descriptions of Saxony and the different French cities to be fascinating.    I was really interested in the Saxon side of things; it was really sad to see how everything was destroyed by the French and then the Saxons were forced to give up their religion in order to just be allowed to live.  I would very much like to learn more about these events. 

Characters:  There were so many great characters in this story that it's hard to pick a favorite.  Leova's strength and intelligence were remarkable; she always seemed to be able to assess every situation and pick the path that would help her family the most.  Pinabel was pure evil and I spent most of the book hoping he would get what's coming to him.  One of the things I really liked about this book is that not only were there great main characters but the cast of supporting characters were pretty awesome too.  I loved Hugh from the first appearance he made and Ives completely snuck up on me.  I didn't think too much of him at first but he slowly developed into a character that I couldn't help but like.

Dislikes:  The only thing I disliked (not really disliked but questioned) was that the story ended really fast and things seemed a little too wrapped up.  I like that there were no loose ends left but at the same time it made the story seem less realistic.  

Overall, The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar is a really good book.  I am definitely looking forward to what Ms. Rendfeld has in store for readers in the future.  4 stars.

About the Author:

Kim Rendfeld has a lifelong fascination with fairy tales and legends, which set her on her quest to write The Cross and the Dragon.

She grew up in New Jersey and attended Indiana University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English, with a minor in French. If it weren't for feminism, she would be one of those junior high English teachers scaring the bejesus out of her students, correcting grammar to the point of obnoxiousness. Instead, her career has been in journalism, public relations, and now fiction.

Kim was a journalist for almost twenty years at Indiana newspapers, including the
 Journal and Courier in Lafayette, The Muncie Star, and The News and Sun in Dunkirk, and she won several awards from the Hoosier State Press Association. Her career changed in 2007, when she joined the marketing and communications team at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She gets paid to agonize over commas and hyphens, along with suggesting ways to improve writing, and thoroughly enjoys it. She is proud to have been part of projects that have received national recognition.

Kim lives in Indiana with her husband, Randy, and their spoiled cats. They have a daughter and three granddaughters.

You can read the first chapter of The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar and The Cross and the Dragon at  Follow her on twitter at @kimrendfeld.

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