Book description from Amazon: The life of an 8th century peasant is, as they say, “nasty, brutish, and short”. Stephen of Orlans wants none of that. Peasant or not, he dreams of studying at Charlemagne’s famed Palace School at Aachen. But the sins of war have left him stained with blood, guilt, and despair, and the sadistic step-son of a local count wants him dead. Most importantly, he is beginning to think he would rather spend his life with the beautiful milkmaid Bertrada than in the confines of a monastery.
Stephen’s road to Aachen leaves him entangled in the conspiracies of nobility, fighting for his freedom and his life. But it is the struggle between love and ambition, between responsibility and desire that threatens to destroy him. To find his redemption Stephen must confront the secrets and betrayals that have shaped his life, and he will find that some decisions can never be undone.
Isn't this a gorgeous cover?!!! It captures the book perfectly. Swords and scarves are involved, as well as beautiful calligraphy. I've seen photos of the Gospels that have been hand-written with gold illuminations so what a treat it was to read this book set in the period of Charlemagne's reign. My knowledge of history is poor, but historical fiction is the window that makes me pick up tomes. And Gary has definitely delivered the goodies promised in the flap copy.
I admit I was a little bit wary because so many people say they want to write a book and they do, but end up hitting you over the head with *lessons*. Self-publishing means that anybody can publish and there's no filter, no standard, and most of the time I've been disappointed with the quality. Of course, there are exceptions, and Aachen is exceptionally good.
I also admit that I did not expect a physicist to write so beautifully, but Gary can paint a picture with words. The story is well-plotted and moves along at a good clip as Stephen makes his journey towards manhood. I know many parents complain about not having good books for their teen boys. Well, this is one I can recommend highly.
We met the Ludlams at one of our children's school family dances. We found out we have much in common. Both of us are converts to Catholicism, on fire for the faith, and write! He is a devoted husband and a loving father to four beautiful children. You can learn more about Gary Ludlam and Aachen at Little Way of the Family. He has promised to do an interview. In the meantime, happy reading.