As soon as I saw the title on this book, I had to read it. While I don’t consider a character strong just based on their physical strength, with a name like that, I had a feeling I was in for an adventure about a tough female character. The question was, would she make more than a statement about how she can swing a sword?
“A Sword In Her Hand” starts off in 1347 with the Count of Flanders on pins and needles as his wife is giving birth to a child he hopes above all else will be the son and heir he’s been praying for. It’s a girl. Say hello to the protagonist of the story, Marguerite van Male! Readers watch as Marguerite grows from a small child looking for the love of a father too bitter over the loss a male heir to give her that, to as the book says, a “headstrong, sharp-tongued, sword-wielding” young woman searching for freedom in a male-dominated world. Her father may have wanted a strong-willed boy, but girls with such attitudes just won’t do. Marguerite will not be as her father might wish her to be; she’s watched her father pine over a male heir and her mother waste away, having been only a tool to produce an heir. She does not want to end up like that. Soon, Marguerite won’t just be fighting her father, she’ll be confronted with the pressure of politics as well when a marriage to a foreign prince is arranged for her.
Going into this book, I had no idea what it was about, including the fact that this reasonably short novel is roughly based on a real historical figure of whom little information is known. I’ll admit, I imagined war and frequent sword fights. While there is a war and some sword fights, the story was actually different from what I’d initially thought it would be like. Instead of a keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat action novel, it’s much more a story about Marguerite’s journey as a character and dealing with her life as a strong-willed girl in the Middle Ages. Don’t get me wrong, there is action; from the secondhand account of a war to Marguerite’s adventurous activities. And for those of you out there itching for a sword fight, there’s a great one at the end. However, despite there not being a lot of action in the form of wars and the like, there is plenty of tension and gripping moments that had me flipping through pages furiously to see what would happen next. This is especially true for when the arranged marriage plot line comes into play. Marguerite is constantly fighting a world that would have her be docile and there are wonderfully satisfying scenes in which she openly refuses to keep quiet and play along. This is a female character who is recognized for her vivacious personality and strength of character rather than her looks (which, according to history, weren’t considered beautiful). As Marguerite grew and her challenges in life became harder, I grew to like her more, feeling frustrated with her and cheering her on when she takes a stand.
While this book may not rank as a keeper for me, it was certainly enjoyable. If your heart is set on a sword fight in every chapter, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you’re looking for a Young Adult novel about the struggle of a young woman fighting against the control of the men in her life and her society, “A Sword In Her Hand” will provide you with a well-paced and satisfying story.