|"Flaed, a fifteen-year-old Saxon girl living in tenth century West Saxon, is the daughter of King Alfred. All of her life she has been through training and preparation to become a great queen in a small and placid community, but as she approaches her sixteenth birthday, her betrothal to Ethelred, a man older than her father, becomes official and she is forced to face her destiny, and the confused feelings she harbors over it. The pending wedding only furthers the rift between she and her thirteen-year-old brother Edward. This also affects her relationship with her father, the king. The oft-repeated phrase, "This is more than you and Ethelred marrying, this is West Saxon and Mercia marrying," becomes tired and dull on her lips, and she grows to dread and fear her responsibility.
The king wisely appoints a guardian named Red, a former slave, to watch over Flaed day and night and keep her from harm's way. Angered by the intrusion into her privacy, she takes every possible chance to try to escape from his watchful eyes. One day she does succeed, and it results in her abduction and assault, only stopped by Red finding her and killing most of the men, who he suspect to be Danish. One man, though, escapes, a man who whispered threatening words in her own language into her ear, with a strange and unrecognizable accent. With that shadow hanging over her, she learns that Red was once the former Mercian king's right-hand soldier, who was betrayed and sold as a slave before escaping, all of his family either missing or dead upon his return. Red begins to train her in the ways of a soldier, teaching her to protect herself with stealth and smarts against her opponents, who can always be guaranteed to be stronger.
When the time finally comes for Flaed to depart for Mercia, she leaves on a wagon with ten soldiers and Red protecting her. A brutal attack by the same men who kidnapped her leaves Red dead and others among her men wounded. With no other choice, Flaed, stricken by grief and anger, takes charge and leads the men. More attacks and bad conditions further injure their group, and as Flaed presses onward, she realizes that the conlflict coiling around her extends farther than her and concerns not only her homeland but the land that she is about to be allied to in marraige. Flaed must fight a force twice as strong and experienced as her own and face the nemesis that murdered her mentor in order to save herself, the ones she loves, and her country."
Rachel, Resident Scholar