Flaed has grown into a young lady, old enough to start learning how to read in the scriptorium. She has a knack for learning letters, and catches on quickly. She regrets that her study takes her away from wandering the forests and fields with her little brother. Yet, she regrets more that she will have to leave him at the end of the summer for her father has promised her to marry his ally, Ethelred of Mercia. Her father assigns her a bodyguard to keep her safe until she can be wed. Flaed thinks this is pointless until she runs away, and is almost kidnapped by strange men. Her bodyguard thinks that the best plan is to teach Flaed to defend herself, and so she learns to become a warrior. She never would have predicted that her skill would save not only her life, but the life of her men.
This book is a historical “what if?” book. The main character is based off of a woman named Aethelflaed, who lived in England during the 800’s. The author’s note at the end of the book labels her as “the greatest woman in Old English military history.” Historical texts apparently laude her role as a great queen, and successful war leader, but very little is told about her younger years, this story is imagined by the author in place of that void in the text. The author asked herself what stories a younger Aethelflaed might be involved in, and wrote this tale.
I really enjoyed reading this book, though I kind of worried about if I would like it when I read the plot on the jacket cover. I hoped it wouldn’t turn into a cliché romance novel when I read that Flaed’s father arranged a marriage for her, and set a bodyguard over her. I expected a love triangle, but there was none. In fact the romance was really low key, and more realistic than most arranged marriage stories. The story really was about Flaed, and how she developed into a woman of courage, strength, and skill. I loved the relationship she had with her brother because it reminds me of my brother and me. We used to hang out, and capture lizards, go fishing, and build forts together. Then we just kind of grew apart when we took different academic tracks. I miss those old fort building days. I refused to tell my hubby the plot of this book because I knew if I tried to explain it to him he would never read it. Yet, I got him to start reading it and he didn’t put it down until he finished it. Great little historical novel with a strong, intelligent female character, and heroic, noble men. I would totally recommend.