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BETWEEN TWO FIRES
By: NOCE, Mark
Fiction, Thomas Dunne, 2016
Crow Face. Raven Head. Blackbird. These are some of the names that 14-year-old Branwen is called by members of her father’s court in the Welsh kingdom of Dyfed. Branwen’s dark hair and green eyes mark her as a descendant of the Old Tribes, a proud Pagan people whose women warriors and religion was based on Welsh mythology. To unite Wales against their Saxon foes, she becomes betrothed to a powerful Welsh warlord known as The Hammer King. A young woman in a world of fierce warriors, Branwen seeks to assert her own authority in the effort to preserve Wales against the barbarians.
But Morgan, The Hammer King only cares about defeating the Saxon barbarians that threaten to destroy medieval Wales. He plans to use Branwen only as a broodmare to sire his sons. Meanwhile, Branwen becomes the target of assassinations and courtly intrigue as their kingdoms’ fledgling alliance is fraught with enemies both from within and without. She falls for a young hedge knight named Artagan Blacksword who saves her from the Saxon chieftains, The Fox and The Wolf. Artagan is a Welsh Robin Hood, dashingly handsome and infuriatingly witty. He leads the Welsh of the Free Cantrefs and like Branwen is also a descendant of the Old Tribes.
When The Hammer King locks her in a tower and throws Artagan into his dungeon, Branwen risks everything to free him and together they flee her husband’s castle. Caught between her duty to her people and the love of a man she cannot have, Branwen must choose whether to preserve her royal marriage for the sake of her country, or to follow her heart. At the last stronghold of Aranrhod, Branwen and Artagan make a stand to save their people. She tries to unite all of Wales under her banner, while Saxon invaders and a mysterious traitor attempt to destroy her, the man, and the country she loves.
BETWEEN TWO FIRES takes place in a time and era in which very little reliable written records or archeological remains have survived. Mark Noce based his novel on primary sources such as St. Gildas (a Welsh cleric of the era), mythology from the Welsh Mabinogion, and Arthurian literature from Malory to T.H. White. The characters are fictional as are some of the place names, but the physical environment, the historical details, and the saga of the Welsh people is real.
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World Rights sold to: Thomas Dunne Books