Gellis is one of the very few historical or romance authors who are able to creat characters who belong to the times where the story is set. Nowhere is this as evident as in The Sword and the Swan. This is a prequel to the Roselynde chronicles (though Roselynde is never mentioned, the story of Alinor's grandfather, Ranulf Sire of Sleaford, during the unrest of King Stephen's last days. On the historical end, S&S is about Ranulf's relationship with Stephen. Ranulf is an honorable man who loves his king -- though he knows Stephen is not fit to rule. As Henry sweeps across England, Ranulf fights a war that he cannot win. As a romance, it is the story of Catherine who has lost everything, sire, husband, son and unborn daughter and freedom. As a reward for Ranulf's support, she is given to the Sire of Sleaford who cultivates rudeness and distrust of women -- but Catharine is no sniveling coward and she's not about to lose a family a second time. This book contains, among other things, some of the best written, intellegent, medieval battlescenes in print -- as well as the incredible characters that are Gellis's trademark.