With a loud crack the sword cam down onto a helm already knocked askew by an earlier blow. The helm flew off and the wearer staggered and nearly lost his feet.
“Ho, valiantly done!” the fifteen-year-old Elisabeth von Winterkirche called from her perch on the wooden fence.
This shows clearly that Elisabeth, the protagonist of this tale, is no simpering miss. She’s not sitting in her mother’s solar at her embroidery. Instead, she’s learning how to fight. And this is just as well, for when her mother and brother die, and her father abandons the family to join a crusade, Elisabeth is left at the mercy of her husband, who rapes her.
But Elisabeth is not easily cowed. Seeing no future for herself as a submissive, ill-used wife, she dons a knight’s garb and sets out on crusade with Albrecht, her brother’s best friend and lover. Elisabeth and Albrecht have many hair-raising adventures. But the ending of the novel doesn’t quite satisfy. The problem is that an important loose thread is not tied up. In my opinion, Elisabeth should find her father, as her continual search for him motivates many of the choices she makes throughout the novel. By not giving us that scene, the author lost an opportunity not only for tension and conflict (how I would have loved to have seen the expression on Sigismund’s face when he saw that one of the knights was his own daughter), but also for a truly resonant ending to the novel.
Despite this flaw, this is a great read for those of you interested in the crusades. The author has clearly done her research, and the novel is replete with vivid depictions of fighting in chain mail and armor. My favorite one is of Elisabeth wearing her knight’s armor while trying to cope with the heat of the Middle East. A vivid characterization of the agony that must have been suffered by those knights of long ago.
–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels. She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. THWARTED QUEEN is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.FAMILY SPLINTERS is a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.