In my last post I wrote (okay, raved) about Rosemary Sutcliff.
Well, I've found a successor.
If you love Sutcliff (and if you don't, what's wrong with you? ;-) ), then scurry over to your library or local bookstore and ask for books by Rebecca Tingle. Her first, The Edge on the Sword is a terrific historical novel in the Sutcliff tradition. Aethelflaed is the daughter of Alfred, King of Wessex. Educated and willful, Aethelflaed loves nothing better than to sneak out to ride the horses. But she is a king's daughter, promised in marriage to secure an alliance against the Danes who have invaded northern England. When conspirators attempt to kidnap her, Aethelflaed convinces her bodyguard— a thrall sent by her future husband— to teach her how to fight for herself. Eventually, Aethelflaed finds herself not only fighting, but leading men in a desperate battle against Danish raiders intent on her capture... or failing that, her death.
Tingle's treatment of this very real young lady is remarkable both for the way in which she captures the culture of the time, and for her terrific handling of both the action and suspense of the situation. Tingle's Aethelflaed is a wonderful character, true to her time yet very modern in her appeal, both to girls and boys. The book is also beautifully written, engaging from start to finish. Rooting for Aethelflaed to win is made all the more exciting by the historical reality of her triumph. What a great role model for young women... and what a great book.
Tingle has written an excellent sequel, Far Traveler, about the adventures of another young lady of Old England... but I'll let you read it to learn more, as her fate has much to do with Aethelflaed's.
Two books is a good start. Let's hope that Tingle returns again with another tale from history. I'll certainly be looking for it!
--- Howard Shirley