Armor of Light
England, 1204. George of Ascalon returns traumatized from the sack of Constantinople, only to find that his father has committed this stressed-out Crusader to a dangerous quest. George assembles a large group of unlikely companions—including a woman he rescues from immolation, a noble lady who seems to be part demon, and his sister—and takes a road trip from Cumbria to Yorkshire. This story is a re-working of “Saint George and the Dragon,” with echoes of Beowulf and Lord of the Rings. The feel is lushly medieval, like a colorful tapestry come to life. A riveting battle between Christian elements and pagan evil is almost three-dimensional in nature.
There are some anachronisms—it is hard to believe that two of the women are as deadly in a sword fight as any trained knights. It also seems doubtful that George’s sister would abandon the wealthy, noble Earl of Chester on their wedding day and embark on a dangerous journey with her brother. There are far too many characters for a book of this length, and not enough backstory. Still, Ekstrom’s prose is luminous, particularly in areas where she is writing about medieval religion. The author knows her purificators from her ambries, and a timeless tale of good versus evil always strikes a chord. Despite the flaws, this story engages the emotions, and the ending surprises and intrigues. Recommended with reservations.