Friday, November 13, 2009

Gudrun's Tapestry by Joan Schweighardt

Gudrun's Tapestry cover

Gudrun's Tapestry
by Joan Schweighardt

Hardback: 271 pages
Publisher: Beagle Bay Books
First Released: 2003

Source: Review copy from the publisher

Back Cover Description:
Gudrun’s Tapestry is a powerful, enchanting and vivid tale of a lone woman’s quest to face the Fifth century’s greatest terror, Attila the Hun. The only thing she bears is a cursed sword and a belief that she must act to preserve her people, the Burgundians. Along the way Gudrun unexpectedly discovers the capacity to love a man who may be a mortal enemy. She must embark on an inner journey to cope with adversity in the outer world. Grounded in history and loosely based on the Poetic Edda, Gudrun’s Tapestry takes the reader on a quest of self-discovery in a tale of magic and courage that resonates through the centuries to touch the reader’s heart and soul.

Author's Note: Gudrun's Tapestry is based on the "Sigurth" and "Guthrun" lays, as they appear in the Poetic Edda, and on the history of the Germanic and Hun tribes during the reign of Attila the Hun. While there were many instances where the legend and the history were close enough to be combined, where they were not, I took the liberty of creating the links that I imagined.

Gudrun's Tapestry was an enjoyable and interesting historical fiction with a bit of legend mixed in. The historical details were nicely woven into the story to bring the world alive in my imagination. The characters were interesting and seemed inclined to make enough bad decisions (with the help of a cursed sword) so as to make their a Hamlet-tragic sort of way.

The story started off with Gudrun arriving at the City of Attila with the intent of gifting him with a cursed sword as a way to avenge his army's slaughter of her tribe many years before. But once she finally gets it to him, the sword seems to bring him luck instead, and, as long as she's a prisoner, her only hope to hurry up Attila's death is to turn his loyal second-in-command into her ally.

Periodically, the story switched back to the events that led to her bring the cursed sword to Attila. This section told of her love for Sigurd, a man intent on slaying a dragon to get gold, the cursed sword, and everlasting fame, and of another woman who coveted his love. I had no problem keeping track of the events in the two sections and enjoyed the greater action provided by the "leading up to Attila" portion of the story.

Which brings us to the novel's slower-the-typical pacing. It's partly due to Gudrun being stuck in a hut as a prisoner and forbidden to speak with anyone but Attila's second-in-command for a significant portion of the book. This part wasn't boring--there was plenty of verbal sparing and news of Attila's victories and such. There simply wasn't a lot of physical action. The action picked up as the story moved along, though, and the story had a satisfying ending.

There was no explicit sex and the only illicit sex (not by Gudrun) brought realistic consequences. There was no bad language. I'd recommend this well-written, clean novel to readers who enjoy historical fiction and/or who want to know a bit more about Attila the Hun.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
I fell to my knees at the stream, so eager to drink that I did not think to offer a prayer until afterward, when I was satisfied and my flask was full. I was exhausted. My skin was parched and I was filthy; but according to the map my brothers had given me, I was very near my destination. I left on foot, pulling my tired horse behind me.

I had not had a full night's rest since the terrain had changed. The land was flat here. There were no caves or rocky ledges where I could shelter myself. The forest, so sacred to my people, had long since been replaced by endless grasslands. As I trudged through them, I felt that I had left more than my loved ones behind.

When the sky darkened, I used the single live coal I carried from the previous night's fire to light my torch. I was sure that the light could be seen from some distance. I expected at every moment to hear the thunder of hooves beating on the arid earth. But on and on I walked, seeing no sight other than my own shadow in the gleam of the torch light and hearing no sound by that of my horse plodding along beside me.


Joan Schweighardt said...

Hi Debbie,

Thanks for the nice review of my fourth novel, GUDRUN'S TAPESTRY. I really like your review style, informative and succinct. I'll be keeping an eye out for your reviews in the future.

Genre Reviewer said...

Joan Schweighardt,

Thanks for stopping by! And thank you for the compliment. I'm glad you find my review style informative and succinct. :)