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The Edge on the Sword by Rebecca Tingle
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The Edge on the Sword (2001)

by Rebecca Tingle

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I really enjoyed this book. The author clearly put tons of research into this historical novel, and it showed. You can get lost in the world she re-creates without losing the storyline. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Old English time periods, the history of Britain, swords and swordplay, ancient history, and/or a young woman coming of age and learning to take care of herself. ( )
  sarahashwood | Jun 22, 2018 |
Though technically a children’s book, The Edge on the Sword is a satisfying read for adults as well. The story is a speculative account a year in the teenage life of Æthelflæd, firstborn daughter of Alfred the Great, who would become known as ‘The Lady of the Mercians’. Sixteen year-old ‘Flead struggles to come to terms with her betrothal to Lord Athelred of Mercia, and the challenges of growing up, when all she really wants to do is have adventures in the marshes around her family’s home, and read poetry.

However, trouble is afoot, as the West Saxons soon learn that the region around Alfred’s Burh is teeming with Danish raiders, so a gaurdian named Red is appointed to guard the young ‘Flead. The presence of the mysterious stranger at first proves annoying and frustrating, but it time the loyal Mercian teaches and advises ‘Flead, his example guiding her to maturity, and to face the greatest danger of her life.

‘Speculative’ historical fiction has the potential to be rather problematic, but this story was on the whole, plausible, accurate and well written. I for one enjoyed the way in which the author wove Literature into the story, including Beowulf, Judith and The Maxims- which the title is derived from. It is known that Alfred had his children educated during the time of his great reform programme, and possible that the sharp and quick- witted Æthelflæd may have benefited from this, so the references to her being taught to read and write seem wholly credible. Also, whilst there is no direct evidence that she ever actually physically fought, or was trained to use weapons, the novel has her doing so, which does ‘work’ in the context of the story. Who knows, maybe it’s not impossible…

Those expecting high political drama and battle scenes will be disappointed, as most of the story is devoted to an account of ‘Flead’s life, relations with her family, and experiences growing up- with the youthful impetuousness , stubbornness and occasional indecisiveness and general difficulty that any teenager or parent of a teen could identify with.
However, whilst 'Flead has reservations and resentment about the changes which her position in life and responsibilities force upon her, these aspects did not ultimately prove anachronistic or jarringly modern as they do in other stories.

Such an approach is interesting from a social historical perspective, giving a ‘feel’ for what the life of a 10th century Saxon princess may have been like, though the story could be a little slow and repetitive in places.
My only gripes were this, and the occasional Americanism, but nothing heinous. It even proved useful for my studies- which was one of my intentions in reading the book, but also an enjoyable pleasure read. I would certainly consider reading the sequel Far Traveller. I would recommend this for all lovers of historical fiction, the Anglo-Saxon period, or just those wanting a good, clean read.

Parents considering the book may wish to know there is some violence towards the end, none of it particularly graphic, but at a level which may prove upsetting for some children.

( )
  Medievalgirl | Oct 4, 2016 |
The Edge on the Sword is the story of Æthelflæd, daughter of the King of Wessex. She is promised in marriage to the eldorman of Mercia, Ethelred. This is a coming of age story based on a real woman. In the book Æthelflæd must overcome her fear of being married to the eldorman and her fear of death. She comes to terms with death as she sees it alot in the story as she is attacked on her way to meet her new husband. Her teacher/guardian Red is killed along with many of the thanes that were sent to protect her. She must fight herself to save those who are left. There is an message of loyalty in the book. Æthelflæd must be loyal to her father, Red was loyal to the man who sold him into slavery, and the thanes must be loyal to Æthelflæd. It seems that the punishment for the unloyal thanes is death by the enemies. This historical fiction book is a good book for child interested in medieval warfare. I would recommend it to a middle school library. ( )
  sbigger | Mar 14, 2010 |
Greatest Book Based On History ( )
  Scook12 | Nov 18, 2009 |
Athelflaed, daughter of King Alfred, is a very strong young princess engaged to Ethelred of Mercia. She is very intelligent and has her guardian teach her to wield a sword at a very young age. All of this comes in handy when she must defend herself and her people. She became more famous for several hundred years than her widely acclaimed father, but history has a way of erasing the tales of great women, unfortunately.
  nolak | Jun 22, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142500585, Mass Market Paperback)

When fifteen-year-old Æthelflæd is suddenly and reluctantly betrothed to an ally of her father, the king, her world will never be the same. For as a noblewoman in the late 800s, she will be expected to be meek and unlearned-and Flæd is anything but meek and unlearned. Her marriage will bring peace to her land, but while her royal blood makes her a valuable asset, she is also a vulnerable target. And when enemies attack, Flæd must draw upon her skills and fight to lead her people to safety and prove her worth as a princess-and as a warrior.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:34 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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.… (more)

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