December 1, 2014

Serpent on a Cross

Dennah Dubrovnika is a formidable hunter and talented healer. However, she cannot control her own powers, which have suddenly reawakened in the aftermath of her mother's violent capture by a powerful warlord who destroyed their village in his wake. As she races to free her mother, Dennah is accompanied by Jeth, the man she loves. But she's increasingly, inexorably drawn to the mysterious Skallon, who is allied with her greatest enemy. Will Dennah be able to gain a measure of control over her magic or will she lose everything and everyone she loves to its raging inferno? Serpent on a Cross is a novel of Jewish fantasy and adventure in Medieval Eastern Europe.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

I loved this book.  It was nothing like what I was expecting, but I found it compelling and original.

It takes place in 1043 AD in Poland.  So I was thinking hmmm medieval-ish fantasy!  My favorite!
Then I started flipping the pages and found this: "A novel of Jewish fantasy and Adventure in Medieval Eastern Europe".  I was a bit confused because the summary mentioned magic.  I was instantly afraid.  Jewish religion and magic?  Those do not go together in my head.  

But I am here to tell you.  Read on.  IT WORKS.  I don't know how Wendy Garfinkle managed it, but the Jewish culture works with the magic.  And reading this book made me learn a bit more about Jewish history.  Apparently antisemitism is much older than I thought.  I had no idea Jewish people were forced to wear badges to identify themselves before WWII era Germany.  I had no idea they were persecuted throughout Europe during this time period.  This makes me incredibly sad.  *waves freedom of religion flag in triumph*

Garfinkle does more than just weave a compelling story of medieval magic and female coming of age, her historical knowledge is fantastic.  She takes medieval eastern Europe and makes it come alive on the page.

The only problem I had with the book was the strength of the main character.  At times Dennah seemed a bit too 21st century woman.  She took me out of medieval Europe; I forgot she was wearing dresses, and probably had a rag around her hair because they didn't have chemical shampoos.

This book receives 4 of 5 stars for an awesome concept, fantastic writing, and rocking historical world building.

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