It is 741. After subduing the pagan religions in the east, halting the march of Islam in the west, and conquering the continent for the Merovingian kings, mayor of the palace Charles the Hammer has one final ambition-the throne. Only one thing stands in his way-he is dying.
Charles cobbles together a plan to divide the kingdom among his three sons, betroth his daughter to a Lombard prince to secure his southern border, and keep the Church unified behind them through his friend Bishop Boniface. Despite his best efforts, the only thing to reign after Charles's death is chaos. His daughter has no intention of marrying anyone, let alone a Lombard prince. His two eldest sons question the rights of their younger pagan stepbrother, and the Church demands a steep price for their support. Son battles son, Christianity battles paganism, and Charles's daughter flees his court for an enemy's love.
Based on a true story, Anvil of God is a whirlwind of love, honor, sacrifice, and betrayal that follows a bereaved family's relentless quest for power and destiny.
Well this was a rip-roaring Carolingian good time! It's pretty much nonstop action and drama as Charles Martel (Charlemagne's grandfather) faces the end of his life and attempts to ensure his legacy remains intact by dividing his Frankish realm between his three sons: Carloman, Pippin, and Gripho. Of course, this creates a world of trouble after his death as all three sons have different ideas as to how to consolidate their power and finally turn the realm into a kingdom, as was their father's wish. On top of that, his daughter, Trudi, openly rebels against the marriage he arranged for her before he died, choosing instead to run away, and his pagan widow, Sunnichild, has ideas of her own for how her son, Charles's youngest, Gripho, should earn his share of the pie alongside his Christian brothers. And on top of that, Charles's enemies take advantage of the family strife and seize the chance to take back their conquered lands, adding more chaos to the tableau.
This is a rich story, full of complex characters and tricky relationships set against the backdrop of constant warfare for territory and religious reform in the eighth century. Many characters feature in the story, but for me, the stars were the women, Sunni and Trudi, and to a lesser extent, Pippin's mistress, Bertrada. Though they must bear the repercussions of the actions of the men in their lives, they are not without their own power, and each of them has a pivotal role to play in the destiny of this powerful family, navigating through the twisting whims of fate and the perils of the human heart to strive for their own chances at happiness while honoring what is good and right in a world torn by violence and vengeance.
I thoroughly enjoyed Anvil of God. It's like a Carolingian soap opera with lots of drama, political maneuvering, betrayals, and familial strife. It's a lot like Game of Thrones without the fantasy, although after reading the author's notes and discovering that so much of this story--including pivotal events, character actions, and personality traits--was pure fiction, I would say it does stray a bit into the realm of fantasy. It's not so much "this is what happened" but a "this is what could have happened" kind of book. And it was very entertaining. The author does a great job of managing and balancing a huge cast of characters and multiple points of view, which I normally don't like, but in this case, it all worked together very well. I'm bumping it down a notch for gratuitous and at times painfully awkward sex scenes (also a la GoT), and I was a bit disappointed afterward to learn how much dramatic license the author took with some of the historical figures. But other than that, it's a fantastic read. Very well written and complete with everything I like in a book: vibrant historical detail, compelling characters, emotional and physical conflict, and in this case, multiple love stories! I couldn't put it down and I can't wait to see how these family threads will play out in the rest of the series.
My Rating: 4 Stars out of 5
Anvil of God is on a blog tour!
J. Boyce Gleason will be here tomorrow
with a guest post and a giveaway!