In A.D. 794, a 13-year-old girl makes a bold escape from the convent that has been her home for the past two years. Kara, a Saxon, was banished to the convent along with her sister Rapana after their father, Hergar the Giant, refused to obey King Charles, the Frankish ruler of Saxony. One night, her brother Osbern engineers an escape, sending her to the mountains to live with the priestess Bertagard. Three years later, Gerin the Faithful, a Saxon count, is sent by King Charlemagne to Thunar’s Hall in the Harz Mountains region to bring stability to the region and ensure the residents’ conversions to Christianity. Thunar’s Hall was formerly occupied by Herger and his family; Gerin, believing marriage to the daughter of the estate’s former owner will provide the Saxon ally needed to aid the process of conversion, captures Kara and cajoles her into marriage. Despite their differences, they are immediately attracted to each other, forming a passionate, if tenuous, bond that sustains them through famine, tragedy, and endless fighting between the Franks and Saxons. Margolis has created a rich, bold epic buoyed by a strong heroine and vivid setting. Kara, a powerful and compassionate heroine, is dedicated to the preservation of her religion in a time of ongoing religious conflict. Despite her initial misgivings, she finds a strong and supportive partner in Gerin, a man who’s not afraid to challenge his king or church if he feels they are not acting in the best interests of his wife and their family. Religious differences are a central theme of the novel, and Margolis thoroughly explores the conflicts between Christianity and paganism and the attempts of Kara and Gerin to bridge the differences between the religions. A subplot involving Milon the Immunist, a wealthy land owner with questionable intentions, and Guntrada, Gerin’s former concubine, is also skillfully handled.
A lavishly detailed historical epic with well-drawn characters, Margolis’ novel contains an enjoyable balance of action and romance.