Ascent by Cathie Dunn
A brutal Viking raid heralds the dawn of a new, powerful dynasty – the House of Normandy
Neustria, Kingdom of the West Franks
Fourteen-year-old Poppa’s life changes when Northmen land near Bayeux. Count Bérengar, her father, submits to them, and she is handfasted to Hrólfr, the Northmen’s heathen leader, as part of their agreement.
To her relief, Hrólfr leaves immediately in search of further conquest, only returning to claim her years later. In the face of retaliating Franks, they flee to East Anglia, where she gives birth to their son and daughter.
When Hrólfr and Poppa return to reclaim Bayeux, his new campaign strikes at the heart of Frankish power, and King Charles of the West Franks offers him a pact he cannot refuse. In exchange for vast tracts of land in Neustria, Hrólfr must convert to Christianity and accept marriage to Gisela, the king’s illegitimate daughter.
Poppa’s world shatters. She remains in Bayeux, with her daughter, Adela. When Gisela arrives one day, demanding she hand over Adela, to be raised in Rouen, Poppa’s patience is at an end. But Gisela makes for a dangerous enemy, and only one woman will survive their confrontation high up on the cliffs.
Will Poppa live to witness the dawn of a new era?
ASCENT is the first in a new series about the early women of the House of Normandy – women whose stories have been forgotten through time.
Readers of Viking and medieval fiction will enjoy ASCENT, a fictional account of the life of Poppa of Bayeux, handfasted wife of Rollo the Viking.
Trigger warning: Loss of a child. Some battle and fighting scenes.
I love historical fiction and especially novels based around real characters, with a story that adds flesh to their bones and brings them back to life. However, working in a museum dedicated to 19th century French rural life and the industrial revolution, that is housed in a Renaissance château, meant I had little knowledge of the era of history that this book is set in. My early worries that I wouldn’t connect with the story, characters or period were soon forgotten.
Life at this time was harsh, with so much to battle with, from the constant threat of invasion or attack to the cruel weather, illness and disease. The descriptions in the book made it easy to immerse myself in the action and Poppa was a powerful character who I grew to love. Her relatively comfortable, privileged position as the daughter of the local Count was thrown into turmoil when their village was invaded. Where she was feisty and angry, her father was weak and complying, and to keep the peace, negotiated his daughter’s hand, binding her to Hrólfr. It might not have been her choice, but Poppa showed wisdom beyond her years and watching the changing dynamics of their unusual relationship was a delight that kept me turning the pages. The emotional side left me with a warmth I hadn’t expected.
This book is a gem for those who love historical fiction and are looking to read something a bit different. It certainly piqued my interest in this period, leaving me keen to learn more and I will be eagerly waiting the next book in this series. In the meantime, I’ve found more from Cathie, set in Versailles and the Languedoc, that I am now looking forward to reading.
Cathie Dunn is an award-winning author of historical fiction, mystery, and romance. The focus of her historical fiction novels is on strong women through time.
Cathie has been writing for over twenty years. She studied Creative Writing online, with a focus on novel writing, which she also taught in the south of France. She loves researching for her novels, delving into history books, and visiting castles and historic sites. A voracious reader, primarily of historical fiction / romance, she often reviews books on her blog, Ruins & Reading.
Cathie is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Richard III Society, and the Alliance of Independent Authors.
After many years in Scotland, Cathie now lives in south of France with her husband, and rescued Charlie Cat and Ellie Dog. Discover more about Cathie at cathiedunn.com
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