Silver Hammer, Golden Cross
Pyewacket Press 2017
Silver Hammer, Golden Cross (Pyewacket Press, 2017) is sixth in the series of the Circle of Ceridwen series. It begins by exploring the friendship of two young heirs, Ceric, of Saxon descent and Hrald, of Danish descent. Although the history of their families is complicated, involving revenge killings mandated by honor, the two young men feel close to each other, mainly because of the warm friendship their mothers maintained through various tribulations. This friendship endures, despite the fact that Ceric’s mother now lives with Hrald’s father, on the island of Gotland. Hrald’s father has effectively abandoned his Danish family, after beginning a new family in exile and taking an oath to kill no further men. Ceric wished to marry Hrald’s sister Ashild, both because he cares for her, and because it will allow him and Hrald to strengthen the bond between the two noble houses.
The headstrong Ashild, who emerges as the central character of Silver Hammer, Golden Cross, is conflicted. She likes Ceric well enough, but feels rooted to her family’s land. Marrying into Ceric’s house, which is far-away, would mean rare visits to the place she calls home. While she considers Ceric proposal, another suitor enters to complicate the picture, against the background of a coming war. How Ashild handles this challenge is central to the story, and always believable. Ashild embodies the multicultural lineage of England: though her Danish family has converted to Christianity, she wears her fathers silver hammer, a symbol of the pagan God Thor. At the same time, she treasures the Christian abbey where her grandmother lives as a place of safety for women. Ashild wears the golden cross as well.
Octavia Randolph never strikes a false note historically, and describes objects with the eye of a craftswoman. Her characters are given room to develop as the story unfolds. She refuses to pander to the Game of Thrones crowd. Most of the characters, including Hrald’s absent father, Sidroc, try to act with honor and integrity. It’s a world shadowed by betrayal and war, and the lust for spoils, but not a world without love, companionship, and loyalty. In the end, Ceric, Ashild, and Hrald, like their parents before them, have become the friends many readers would wish for, judging by the popularity of the series.
Gabrielle Mathieu is the author of the historical fantasy Falcon series (The Falcon Flies Alone, and the upcoming The Falcon Strikes.) She blogs about travel and her books at http://gabriellemathieu.com/.
You can also follow her on Twitter to get updates about new podcasts and more: @GabrielleAuthor.