Reviewed by Marta Tandori for Readers' Favorite
For a novella that blends the distant past and the near future, look no further than the highly imaginative Swords of Ansgar: A Windflower Saga by Aleksandra Layland. Sixteen-year-old Keridwen Rose (“Keri Rose”), daughter of Lady Kimberlee of Ansgar and her husband, Iolyn, is one of six children who has a special affinity for sword practice with the Helvellyn sword and has been training with her mother. The course of her young life drastically changes when she meets Lubomir (“Lubo”), a handsome sword master, who has come to Kimbria with the Blade Master of Helvellyn Island, his son, and another sword master to sell swords, give sword demonstrations and to find students for their swordsmanship school at Helvellyn. Widower Lubo is impressed by Keri Rose’s skill with the sword and extends an invitation to her to come to Helvellyn for sword training – as his wife. Seeing no other way to get the training she desires, Keri Rose reluctantly agrees but it isn’t until they’re on a ship and attacked by pirates that Keri Rose realizes that she’s fallen in love with her handsome Lubo.
Fast forward centuries later… Twenty-six-year-old Mistress Kimbria Ke’ilani (“Kimmy”), the single daughter of Queen Ronven Korelani of Kimbria and a world champion athlete, has finished her competitions at the International Games and is out past curfew with Master Daren Haraldur, a 36-year-old widower. Having finished dinner, Master Daren informs Kimmy that he has chosen her, with his mother’s approval, to come to Helvellyn Island to train in the Way of the Sword and eventually become his mother’s replacement since Kimmy’s so-many-times-great-grandaunt Keridwen Rose of Ansgar had been the first woman training master at their school. Master Daren tells Kimmy that his mother has also approved of her on another level – as his future wife.
Clearly, the two stories in Swords of Ansgar are set centuries apart. What ties them together are many strands of the familial dynasty and the love that both of the female protagonists have for swordsmanship and the Helvellyn sword. Each story is rich in history and in detail. Layland has created this multi-faceted family dynasty that spans centuries and the author takes the time to reacquaint returning readers with the family history as well as lay the basic groundwork for new readers so that they’re soon up to speed with who’s who in the story and how each of the key characters relates to the others. Keri Rose’s story is especially poignant and the relationship between her and her large family is touching, to say the least. Layland chooses her words effectively, giving readers a narrative that is detailed, with transitions between narrative and dialogue flowing seamlessly. The sweet and somewhat innocent love stories are juxtaposed by the threats of danger, giving both stories substance. Like a beautiful tapestry, Swords of Ansgar weaves two beautiful tales into one.