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HFC Editorial Review of "The King's Sword" by Rebekah Simmers

She was Princess Avelina Elisabeth. Heir to the throne. Last of her line. And beyond that, stripped of silks and naked of titles, she was her father’s daughter. She had been loved. She, alone, was enough. And it was she who would determine her own destiny.”

Every once in a while, you come across a rare hidden gem, a beautiful glimmering story so immersive and lovely that you are compelled to tell others. This is one of those diamonds. And yes, I will add my thoughts to this review from my heart, for this novel reached down into my very soul and ripped them from me. If ever there was a novel to rival Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, then this is the one... at least, in my humble opinion. And while I try to convey the sheer erupting emotions this story invoked, I will include some of the passages, as well, which speak for themselves of the incredible majestic and profound skill this author, Ms Simmers, has with words.

In the midst of Germany, hovering between the dark ages and the Renaissance, a strong yet kind hero emerges. Matthais is that hero, although he is simply a common soldier for the King until a single act of kindness places him in an extraordinary position. He is the epitome of a man’s man and a woman’s dream – handsome, strong, fiercely loyal, honest, bound to his family, dependable, and unexpectedly, gentle. Side by side, he fought with the King’s son until he sees him fall; and upon bringing his body back to the King, is bestowed with the title “the King’s Sword” and sent on a mission to retrieve the promised bride of his fallen son. Yet, the King has plans of his own with this young virgin Princess.

Honour flows through Matthais’ heart like life-giving blood. His word is given and he vows to uphold his word no matter the cost to himself, even if it means his own life, for in his vow to the King he will achieve the ultimate reward for himself and his brothers – their freedom from any more service to the Crown.

And then, you have Princess Avelina. An orphaned political pawn shoved about a chess board for one purpose only, to fulfil the ambitions of men, and to provide an heir. She has nothing after she is disinherited, degraded, and defined by those who snatched her royal position with murder and blood. Hope has fled, and when we first meet her, the day Matthais comes to escort her back to his King, she is a shell of a girl – fragile, pale, lifeless, yet when Matthais bows before her and vows to protect her in a proxy marriage, she at last sees a flicker of hope in his dark eyes.

Yet, there are those still seeking to eradicate her, thinking she might regain power and seize the throne. In an instant, Matthais and Avelina are thrust out into the vast forests and soaring mountain ranges of the Alps, fleeing from one danger to another unwelcome destiny awaiting her. This is the ultimate story of sacrifice and how kindness in the midst of chaos engenders a deep, abiding love and trust between strangers.

Both Matthais and Avelina’s journey is physical and emotional; one of traversing through unfathomable gorges, crumbling mountains, raging thunderstorms, and dark hollow caves reaching down deep into the heart of stone. The physical terrain and each step taken, each twisted ankle bound, or bloody gash stitched, and each refreshing drink of cool water sipped or dipped in, is a reflection of the inner journey for each of them. Souls are reborn. Self-doubt and courage is tested and refined. Love is the drink of water, and hope is the clear crystal pool offering relief from the storms of life. And Avelina becomes Matthais’ ‘hope wrapped in silk.’

And yet, when the barrier between nobility and a servant is broken... when Matthais’ honour comes into question... when forbidden feelings between them both come to the fore in the midst of the ruins of an ancient Metzlingen manor home... what will they choose? Will Matthais bring her to his King? Will Avelina continue the path to her planned destiny? (No spoilers, here! But Chapter 30 is the most beautiful and most honourable chapter written in any book I have read, and is reminiscent of a classic).

You could’ve squeezed a tear out of the devil himself with the way you two were holding on to each other.”

I cannot even begin to relay how irresistible this story is in adventure and romance of the finest and most honourable quality. This book is proof that even with a thunderous and heart-wrenching tournament between opposing knights, one which you might find visceral, raw, and bloody imagery to strike a pulse-pounding and page-turning story, all you need to do is to tell a great story to keep a reader moving forward in anticipation. I will say, that nearer the end, as I wanted so bad to know the outcome that I felt a little anxious at the drawn-out scenes, but it was worth it, without a doubt!

When you read the descriptions of Scott’s Ivanhoe, you find the main character in love with Lady Rowena, and she is betrothed to Lord Athelstane to bolster the position of the Saxon nobility. This classic wreaks of chivalry, adventure, and romance; and Ms Simmers brings those same ideals and similar characters back to our modern day. This is not the book for those seeking gratuitous violence and steamy sex – this is a beautiful romance set in a time when honour and vows were held in the highest esteem possible. And now, take a moment to absorb this passage, and you will see what I mean about Ms Simmers ability to build a world right before your eyes:

The myth became man. Each confident step the General took thundered his presence. Face like a badger, his beady, black eyes peered from beneath tightly pulled eyebrows. His head was covered in thick ebony hair, slicked back and streaked with silver. A dark scar ran the length of his face, from his left eye, disappearing into his pointed beard. He spoke to no one, yet all turned in his path and bowed in submission. Matthais dropped his chin, though he did not bow as he would have to his own king. “And the dance of powerful men begins,” Matthais muttered. Had they been in a tavern, they might’ve measure their cocks. Here the men strutted like roosters in the yard, posturing, feathers ruffled and wings thrown wide to increase the ground they occupied. The air was heavy with both muffled and exaggerated conversation and laughter. Pride and insults were hurled between tables wrapped with kin, standing on their names, their money and the swords it bought them. Young suitors peacocked in their best robes – shoulders pinned back, spines pulled from their hips, and chins jutted – while their elders stroked their round bellies. Dinner and more drink arrived, fuelling their sport, carried by servants wrapped in loosely draped linens, hair piled high and their plates piled higher.”

Exquisite. One last thing I will touch on is the incredible way Ms Simmers shows that grief is the ultimate display of love. It reaches us all, noble or common... and to suppress the tears and the pain never works... it will crumble like an avalanche at some point in your life. But you can emerge... stronger, and at peace.

What you are is grieving. Grief doesn’t make one weak. ‘Tis born of love. Friendship. Family. Brotherhood. Once you grieve, you can find your peace.”

Even days after reading this story, Matthais and Avelina are still on my mind... and I anxiously await the next instalment of the Metzlingen saga.

In a rating system of one to five stars, I give this book a ten; and it is awarded the “Highly Recommended” award by The Historical Fiction Company.


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