Cover image for The angel and the sword
The angel and the sword
Holland, Cecelia, 1943-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Forge, 2000.
Physical Description:
304 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates book."
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Holland turns her remarkable storytelling talents to the dark and bloody Ninth Century. Into this history rides a young warrior with the face of an angel and the heart of a lion. But a perilous secret may prove the young knights undoingfor the one known as Roderick is in truth a maiden princess named Ragny, who has taken up the sword to avenge the death of her mother and reclaim her own rightful crown.

Author Notes

Born in Henderson, Nevada, Cecelia Holland was educated at Pennsylvania State University and Connecticut College, where she received her B.A. degree. She has served as a visiting professor of English at Connecticut College since 1979.

Holland's historical novels have received broad critical acclaim. According to one critic, she "proves that there can be more to historical thrillers than swordplay and seduction." (Time) Among her novels is City of God (1979), which is set in Rome during the period of the Borgia family. Told from the point of view of Nicolas, a secretary to the Florentine ambassador to Rome, this novel brings to life the period of the Renaissance, including the political intrigue that characterized Rome at the time. Other works include Until the Sun Falls (1969), a story of the ancient Mongols and their empire, The Firedrake (1966), her first published novel, Great Maria (1974), The Bear Flag (1990), and Pacific Street (1991).

Holland is very adept at capturing the period she writes about, including the clothing, furnishings, and customs of the time. One critic has noted that Holland "is never guilty of the fatuity which plagues most historical fiction: she never nudges the reader into agreeing that folks way back then were really just like you and me, only they bathed less often."

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Holland refashions the venerable French legend of Roderick the Beardless into a fantastical medieval adventure. Threatened by her brutal father after the death of her beloved mother, Princess Ragny is forced to flee her small Spanish kingdom in disguise. As Ragny and her devoted manservant journey northward into a bitterly divided France, she transforms herself into Roderick, a bold and fearless knight capable of performing miracles on the battlefield. After Roderick comes to the attention and the assistance of the beleaguered Charles the Bald, the king of France insists that the celebrated young warrior marry his daughter. Despite her almost mystical powers, Ragny/Roderick experiences a gamut of all too human emotions as she herself falls deeply in love with Leovild, one of the king's most loyal and trusted commanders. When her true identity is exposed and she is sentenced to burn at the stake, only a severely wounded Leovild can save her from certain death. A potent blend of action, suspense, romance, and history. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

The prolific Holland (Jerusalem; Valley of the Kings, etc.), a commanding voice in the historical fiction genre, succeeds once again in illuminating a darkly glorious piece of the past, in this epic tale of warrior princesses and avenging angels set in ninth-century medieval Europe. Fluidly written and energetically paced, the story opens on Queen Ingunn's deathbed. The monarch's final wish is for her only child, Ragny, as the last remaining descendant of the line of Roderick, to claim her rightful position and become the new queen of Spain. King Markold, the queen's estranged husband and Ragny's disreputable father, plans to marry his daughter and claim the throne. Strong-willed Ragny escapes Markold and is pursued by Markold's sergeant, Seffrid. She convinces Seffrid to become her ally, cuts off her hair and escapes to Francia. Disguised as a man, Ragny, now known as Roderick, possesses the strength of a true warrior. And she has a secretDshe is protected by her guardian angel. With flashing sword, Ragny/Roderick saves a group of monks and the handsome Frankish knight, Leovild, from bandits; in return they take the fearless maiden and Seffrid to meet the king of Francia, Charles the Bald. A bloody medieval duel caps this tale of epic battles and heavenly light. Little distinguishes it from similar sagas, but Holland consistently satisfies her readers, and the book should prove a surefire, if fleeting, antidote to winter doldrums. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Holland's 23rd novel is a fast-paced, action-driven, and highly satisfying saga about French folk legend Roderick the Beardless. Set in a vividly described ninth-century Paris, the novel centers on King Charles the Bald's fight to save the city when the continued demands of the Vikings can no longer be met. To his aid comes the young, intensely spiritual Lord Roderick. Roderick is in fact the Princess Ragny, who fled her native Spain and incestuous father by disguising herself as a man. As Roderick, Ragny struggles with her sin of deception, her personal identity, womanhood, and the privileges and restrictions of manhood. She also manages to become a hero in battle. This period of French/Viking history may not be a burning topic, but veteran historical novelist Holland (Jerusalem) turns this tidbit of folklore into a wonderful story of faith, love, hope, and justice. Highly recommended for all public libraries.DJean Langlais, St. Charles P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.