Set in medieval England, Rebecca Tingle's historical novel (Putnam, 2001) tells the story of Aethelflaed, the teenaged daughter of King Alfred, who becomes the Lady of the Mercians. As the oldest daughter of the northern king, Aethelflaed is betrothed to her father's friend and ally, Ethelred, thus uniting northern and southern England. Although she hardly knows her future husband, she obeys her father's wish, albeit reluctantly. With a band of soldiers and her faithful bodyguard, Red, Lady Aethelflaed sets out for Mercia, but invading Danish warriors attack the small group of travelers. Through her quick wit and clever military skill, Aethelflaed saves several of her men and makes it to Mercia. The story is historically accurate in its telling of the early life of the renowned Mercian military strategist, but the slow-paced beginning may dissuade all but the most avid history buffs. The action picks up towards the end, but many listeners may not stick with it long enough to find out about Aethelflaed's more adventurous exploits. The story is well-narrated by British-born actress Emily Gray. Listeners will relate to the young teenager who is obliged to marry a man she has met just once. For audiobook collections where historical fiction is in demand.
Surprise. Stealth. Unbalancing her enemy. These were the ways her guardian had taught her to save herself, and to win. Flaed tried to think. How could she surprise the enemy she faced now? An enemy who knew exactly where she was and how many men were with her? What would they expect her to do, and what could she do instead?
Flaed sat while her fire burned down to a ghostly flame wandering over red coals. In her mind a plan was forming, fashioned out of the day's latest discovderies and its early violence and, of all things, out of poetry. Could I really do such a thing? she asked herself as she mulled over one grisly possibility. When she first stood up, she had decided. She saw Dunstan across the yard tending his horse, and went toward him. Her first challenge would be to convince Dunstan that she could stay alive if she carried out her plan. And after I convince Dunstan, she thought grimly, I must convince myself.