Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Edge on the Sword by Rebecca Tingle.

The Edge on the Sword by Rebecca Tingle
First in a Series
Young Adult-Historical Fiction, 288 pages
Published June 23, 2003 by Speak

In ninth-century Britain, fifteen-year-old Aethelflaed, daughter of King Alfred of West Saxony, finds she must assume new responsibilities much sooner than expected when she is betrothed to Ethelred of Mercia in order to strengthen a strategic alliance against the Danes.

I have been in a bit of a book slump lately. I don't think I have ever been in one this badly. I know sometimes the best of use get the Bad Book Blues, but man do I have it. I have been terribly busy lately, for one thing. I never have time nor the desire to spend my time reading. I pick up a book that I had previously been salivating over, and suddenly I can't bring myself to read the first page. My friend is probably so mad at me since she lent me out the next two books in the Stoneheart trilogy, and I can't finish them. I think I have racked her up a pretty penny in fines at her library. I'm trying, I promise! The only thing I have had a remote interest in reading lately is Tamora Pierce, and I loaned out my favorite books in the Tortall series to my friend. Ay, ay, ay! So you can see, I'm in a bad way. I bought The Edge on the Sword many long years ago at a Half-Price Books store. I put it on my bookshelf and promptly forgot about it. Then this year, I made a resolution to at least try and finish all the books on my bookshelf. The Edge on the Sword is right after Fire on the top shelf (which contains my Bad-Ass Femmes books), so it was the next one to be read.

I always try and skim reviews before I read a book, just to get an opinion of whether the book is worth reading or not. I try not to read so much that the reviewer influences my opinion of the story, however. I know myself too well; I can be impressionable. A handful of reviews stated that the Edge on the Sword had a slow beginning that accumulated into a satisfying end. I agree. The very beginning of the book seems to be disconnected from the rest. When I began to read the first chapters, I flipped to the back to make sure I was reading the right story. I was puzzling over what a young girl sneaking in to the woods to meet her angry brother had anything to do with the 'greatest woman in Old English military history.' Stick with this book though, because very quickly we get to the good part. Aethelflad soons learns she will be betrothed to her father's trusted aldorman, Ethelred, a man as old as her father. Before she will be shipped off to marry Ethelred in a strange town, she has to be followed by the trusted servant of Ethelred. She slowly sees her freedom taken away as this new man scares her little sisters and limits her favorite walks into the forest. But Aethelflad isn't one to go down without a fight, leading her to use her wits against this servant and setting the scene for her brilliant military strategies she employs later.

The amount of historical detail that went into this novel is amazing. I loved the little touches of the Middle Ages scattered throughout the Edge on the Sword. Its easy to see that Rebecca Tingle went through a lot of work to make the book accurate. I'm not an expert on the Middle Ages, however, so don't take my word for it. She, at least, made me believe everything she wrote was correct. I think her characters' mindsets were correct for the time period, as well. Many authors try to write historical fiction, but their characters end up sounding like they were plucked from 2010. Aethelflad is a real Mercian woman, known in history as beloved by her people and a genius on the battlefield when she was forced to take over for her husband in his later years. She is a strong woman, without being a feminist that wouldn't have existed in those times. She may not have liked being engaged to an older stranger, but as a princess she would have know she had to submit to her father and king. She didn't run away from the problem but faced it head on, no matter how miserable that made her feel. Aethelflad is inspiring because when she knew she was right, she stood up for herself and when she thought she may be wrong, she stuck out her chin and plowed through the consequences anyway.

The only shortcoming of this novel is the cast of secondary characters. They left some things to be desired when it came to emotions. Towards the end, there should have been an extremely emotional scene with Aethelflad and her trusted servant, Red. I didn't even blink. I realized later I should have felt something during this scene, but I really didn't even register it. I found out as I was writing this review that there is a sequel, Far Traveller! I plan to read as soon as I can.

Also, the sequel's cover looks way better than the Edge of the Sword's cover. I really hate the first book's cover because her face is very pixelated and distorted. Its just strange. Aethelflad's ear and nose look huge.


  1. Ugh, I HATE reading slumps. I always get them after reading great books, I never ever know what to read next!

    Glad you fixed the slump with Edge of the Sword. I've not heard of this, but it sounds fab. I love books with ass-kicking females. LOVE them. (Speaking of which, should probably get a move on checking out Tamora Pierce)

  2. This book looks great and so does the sequel!! I love your blog title and all of the tin soldier pics!

  3. I don't think many people have heard of Edge of the Sword. Glad you know about it now! And of course you should check out Tamora Pierce! Now! She is the epitome of kick-ass female writer.

  4. Oops forgot to add to inthehammockblog: Thanks. I like themes, haha.



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