The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is Kim Rendfeld’s companion novel to The Cross and the Dragon, which she published in 2012. If you are interested you can read my review of her debut novel HERE, but you don’t need to read this past novel in order to pick-up The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar. If you do though, you’ll find similar factual characters. Also, be sure to come back on September 11 for my interview with Kim surrounding her newest novel.
The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar takes place in the 8th century, during the Saxon Wars. Charlemagne’s soldiers are destroying villages, as well as they destruct the pagan’s sacred Irminsul (Pillar of Heaven), and he insists that all of them stop praying to their gods and convert to Christianity. Kim always does a tremendous amount of research on her books and her historical detail is accurate and authentic, as well as detailed. Though she writes her prose, and it reads, as a medieval legend or fairytale, the novel is also seeped in fact, logic, and takes on serious social issues.
I like that Kim can well-develop a novel that is an enjoyable read, but one in which additionally educates you about the life of people during that period that don’t always get the history book page time. She delves into the life of the common people, in this case the peasants, and the tale of a common family. Leova, with her husband Derwine dead by the hands of Charlamagne’s soldiers, has left her with two teen children to care for, Sunwynn and Deolaf. In that time, relatives helped widows, but in this case an evil sister-in-law lies about them and sells them into slavery.
This family’s life becomes very difficult as they are sold and shifted around, with Leova’s pleadings that they are not slaves and it was a mistake (though she doesn’t do it loudly), and the children become intent on changing their own fates, with Deolaf stepping up and taking charge and defending his family (even when he shouldn’t and is often reprimanded) and Sunwynn becoming entranced by the solider Hugh she saw during the battle that killed her father (and what if he killed her father?). Leova is tied up in knots most of the story, due to fear, and focused on her mission, but her supporting characters create the exciting dialogue and emotional scenes.They struggle with their rightful place in society, while at the same time perplexed about their faith and all they knew to be true.
The story is brilliantly told from the peasant family’s point of view. It shows us how war caused such heartache for the families and how forced religious conversion never really works. Kim really does a wonderful, though heartbreaking, job of showing us the struggle among the Saxons, their pagan religion, and the French, of whom were fighting to spread Christianity. Her detail of Saxony and how the French destroyed it was fascinating. Her book really hit home in an underlying fashion about how fighting over religion really doesn’t have much purpose and that there are good people within any faith.
Leova’s resolve to stop at nothing to keep her family together, intelligently accessing all situations and making quiet, yet strategic, moves in her discussions and actions with others in order to do so really inspired me. Her strength and fortitude and willingness to adapt and question her own beliefs, and what she stood for, really made me admire her.
Kim’s writing shows us the worst of situations, and sometimes in people, but also the best of the worst, causing positives to rise from the mire. War is always harrowing, but Kim seems to find the beauty among the filth. Here, it’s the heart of her story–the family–that really makes an impact.
Once again, Kim has spectacular detail, fantastical prose, the crafty storytelling that brings legends to life, and grand character development. I highly recommend for any historical reader who prefers dark ages or medieval literature, but also for readers of history who enjoy a good story that has great heart, and in addition, for those who enjoy good fantasy. It most obviously rendered what could have truly happened to a family at this time, yet it has the feel of a good historical fantasy as well.
- File Size: 4818 KB
- Print Length: 368 pages
- Publisher: Fireship Press LLC (August 26, 2014)
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
- Language: English
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.
Advance Praise for The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar~
“Carolingian Europe comes alive in Kim Rendfeld’s sweeping story of family and hope, set against the Saxon Wars. Her transportive and triumphant novel immerses us in an eighth century world that feels both mystical and starkly real.” – Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye
“A captivating historical filled with rich detail, compelling characters, and a well-paced plot that keeps the pages turning to its very satisfying end. A true delight for fans of historical fiction. I couldn’t put it down.” — Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi Mysteries
“The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is refreshingly set in a less familiar medieval period – soon after Charlemagne has conquered a portion of today’s Germany and its people. The characters are refreshing also, common folk instead of the lords and ladies who are the usual inhabitants of historical novels, and how they adjust to their new condition is fascinating. Altogether, this book was absorbing from start to finish.” – Roberta Gellis, author of The Roselynde Chronicles
Kim Rendfeld, Biography~
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.
To read the first chapters of either novel or learn more about Kim, visit kimrendfeld.com. You’re also welcome to visit her blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist atkimrendfeld.wordpress.com, like her on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, or follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld, or contact her at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.
Thank you to Fireship Press and Kim Rendfeld for the early copy so I could give an honest review.