Cecelia Holland,
The Angel & the Sword
(Forge, 2000)

Amid the bodice-ripping, puerile and ultimately unsatisfying dreck that so often passes itself off as historical fiction these days, there are a small handful of intelligent and literate novelists in the genre. One such as Cecilia Holland.

The Angel & the Sword takes the popular medieval concept of the maiden warrior and deftly splices a riveting and raucous tale from the French legend of Roderick the Beardless. This marvelous interlacing of fiction, legend and history is a hallmark of Holland's work and of great historical fiction itself.

The author is also an amazingly adroit wordsmith, displaying here her customary clever turns of phrase. In the first few pages, she -- not for the last time, either -- refers to a major villain of the piece as "a gross clod of human earth." It's such an incisive, yet witty way of expressing a crude and popular sentiment.

There is so much to love and enjoy in this book; even those who do not particularly like the genre could readily learn to do so.

by Stephen Richmond
5 November 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.