The Cross and the Dragon

Written by Kim Rendfeld
Review by Bethany Latham

In 8th-century Francia, Alda of Drachenhaus is promised to Ganelon of Dormagen, the fair-haired son of a noble family. Ganelon’s outer beauty masks inner evil, and Alda wants none of him. She finds what she does want in Hruodland of Brittany, a battle-scarred young warrior and relative of King Charlemagne. Alda is the opposite of the perfect medieval woman – she’s disobedient and willful. She defies her brother and pursues Hruodland; when Ganelon shows his true character, Alda’s family backs her play, she and Hruodland wed, and Ganelon’s everlasting enmity is established. When Hruodland goes off to war and fails to return, Alda must fend for herself against Ganelon.

This novel is a romance in the traditional rather than modern sense – there’s no bodice-ripping and little sensuality, and the heroine spends a great deal of time separated from her beloved. There are also as many dialogue and action as romantic scenes. As is apparent from the characters’ names, some of the “history” is taken from the Song of Roland (Hruodland) and other medieval sources. Rendfeld has obviously done her homework; no glaring anachronisms stand out, and certain realities usually glossed over in a romance are included (the heroine’s lice, for example, her tendency to slap servants, or her youth at the age of marriage). Religion plays a major role, as is appropriate for characters of the period; this is, after all, the Middle Ages. The villain is decidedly stock, but the other characters exhibit greater three-dimensionality, and the mythic/epic elements (such as Drachenfels Mountain and Siegfried from the Nibelungenlied) add depth and interest to the tale. Overall, a modern take on a Sir Walter Scott type of romance, and one that will work for a modern audience.