First, let me introduce myself. I have been a writer and artist all my life, have written award winning nonfiction books for children, designed award winning needlepoint canvases, written educational materials for high school students, and more. Oh, and raised two great children and been married for 42 years. And in all that time, I was haunted by a story for adults that I finally have written, as a trilogy.
It’s called The Tiger and the Dove. Its heroine, Princess Sofia Volodymyrovna of Kyivan (Kievan) Rus’, makes a very personal journey that she recounts in her memoirs. Captured and enslaved by the Mongols in 1239, she faces an alien world among the most brutal people in a truly brutal era in history. She must survive not only physically but also emotionally as she adapts to Mongol customs, outlooks on life, and threats to her survival both human and supernatural. It sounds like nothing good is going on; but Sofia meets good friends, too, and learns to broaden and even soften her heart.
And that’s just the first novel, The Grip of God. In the next novel, Solomon’s Bride, she has escaped the Mongols and fallen into the hands of the Nizari, known commonly as the Assassins, a secret stateless state that seeks to overthrow the Mongols and much of the Islamic world in order to usher in a new, purer era of Islam. She also encounters the Crusader world, meets kings and queens, and possibly more important to her, falls in love.
And in the final novel, Consolamentum, to be released soon, she discovers that the Mongols were not alone in brutality: in southern France, Inquisitors are burning heretics at the stake while war across the Mediterranean, not to mention savage storms, makes travel a test of courage.
How she survives and even thrives despite such horrors illuminates not only her age but also our own. She’s an ordinary person threading her way through an extraordinary time that in some ways is just like ours: wars, greed, extremism of all sorts. Yet just as in our own time, there is romance, beauty, and richness. In particular, Sofia meets so many people, some of them famous and historical, and some of them products of my imagination. Each of them has a story to tell, too.
And through them all, an era comes to life. The characters come from different cultures, religions, and places that are reflected in their outlooks and assumptions, so that we get a feeling for what life was like in, for instance, China, though Sofia never goes there. In this way, like a vast carpet, the novels introduce us to interconnected worlds that coexisted, warred with, or learned from each other. And like Sofia, we have a chance to come away from the experience enriched in understanding and, like her, able to see our lives in a deeper perspective.