Bind Not the Heart

A Windflower Saga Novella

Fiction - Short Story/Novela
190 Pages
Reviewed on 06/06/2018
Buy on Amazon

Author Biography

Aleksandra Layland is a retired civil engineer and federal civil servant who worked primarily for the United States Air Force as a senior installation engineering manager responsible for buildings, airfields, infrastructure, fire protection, and emergency preparedness. She also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Western Caroline Islands where she helped build school classrooms and cafeterias, low income housing, and simple village water distribution systems.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Aleksandra Layland’s Windflower Saga Novellas give us an insight into many of the characters that may appear only briefly in her series based around the mythical kingdom of Kimbria and the Ansgar bloodline that has played such a big part in ruling that kingdom. Bind Not The Heart is one such novella, where we meet the twins Ermentrude and Ermen. Lady Ermentrude enters the convent and becomes a nun, Sister Ermentrude. What follows is a life dedicated to teaching and to bringing education to the far-flung reaches of the kingdom, especially the rural areas where children have no access to schooling. Her twin brother, Ermen, likewise takes Holy Orders and becomes a monk and also a teacher. Through the fascinating lives of these two educators we meet many of the other characters of the Ansgar line, and have the opportunity to place them in their appropriate area within this long-running and prolific saga across many generations. As well as instructing each new generation of Kimbrians, both Ermentrude and Ermen will have a profound effect on the royal lineage and those who are part of the special world that is the Ansgar bloodline.

Author Aleksandra Layland has built a wonderful social and cultural history in the Kimbrian/Ansgar stories, one which traverses many generations. The novellas, such as Bind Not The Heart, give the avid reader of her works an expanded dimension to characters who may well have just been merely mentioned in passing in previous stories. I am in awe of the author’s ability to keep the massive genealogical tree in order and understandable for the reader, especially given the repetitious use of identical or very similar names, as is the Kimbrian tradition. I have only read one of Layland’s other books thus far, but even then I continually found myself noting a character’s mention and realising I’d come across that particular character before. The author has produced an easy-to-read, fascinating product that surprisingly doesn’t require you to have read any of her other works to enjoy and understand it. I love the way she weaves ideals and social mores into her characters' stories. In my mind that is the mark of a good storyteller – one that can make a reader think and ponder on the choices and beliefs of the characters. Aleksandra Layland is such a storyteller in my mind – high praise indeed for what is proving to be an excellent series.

Romuald Dzemo

Bind Not the Heart: A Windflower Saga Novella by Aleksandra Layland is a deliciously crafted novella that features family, relationships, and faith, a story that explores one of the characters already featured in Of Wisdom and Valor: The Art of War. In this thrilling story, readers get to know some interesting characters, especially Sister Ermentrude and her family background, and Ermen, her twin, and their journey towards a life of service. The author’s gift for exploring genealogy comes across powerfully in the writing. The story is filled with a lot of beautiful and meaningful dialogues that come out neatly and read so naturally, and many insightful thoughts are expressed through the dialogues.

The prose, in fact, was one of the elements of this story that held my attention throughout; it is delightful, tight, and filled with lyricism. The characters are very lovely, and whether they are witnessing hardship or enjoying some of the simplest joys of life, they feel real and believable. Readers have a lot to cherish in this story, but its spiritual depth will open a path that they can use to look into themselves. Bind Not the Heart: A Windflower Saga Novella is a wise story with a lot of lessons for readers.

One of the lessons I learned came across in the form of an allegory: “…You both see many birds in the village, don’t you? And do you see how beautiful and graceful the birds are when they are flying? Yes. But when they are on the ground, whether to find some fat worm for their dinner, to peck at seeds, or to drink water from a fresh puddle, do you see how they are a little clumsy? … But in the sky they are truly what a bird is meant to be.” This beautifully captures the real meaning of inner freedom — embracing who we are meant to be. Aside from being a master storyteller, Aleksandra Layland has the gift of entertaining readers and awakening in them the sense of life through her memorable characters.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Kimbria is an alternate world, still set in a medieval-like age of nobility and a class system that divides those who serve and those who lead. It is an age of chivalry and wars as power drives those who lead to want more. In this alternate world, multiple characters emerge, all part of a different level of the class system - from the child of a camp follower to a beloved nun who nurtured a new generation through her love of teaching, from the serving class to those who were constantly being served. The multiple diversities of many people are interwoven with care, as the Ansgar family, those who lead, move forward in their quest to solidify a kingdom for its greater good. And when the beloved nun, the teacher, passes away, her simple epitaph, the one she chose, reads those prophetic four words spoken over a hundred years earlier by her grandmother: Bind Not the Heart.

Aleksandra Layland’s novella, Bind Not the Heart: A Windflower Saga Novella, expands on the many diverse lives in this alternate world, the kingdom called Kimbria. Each chapter reveals another thread in the complex lives of a people, representing multiple backgrounds and stations in life. And after the many people are introduced and their heritage revealed, they are brought together in a finely woven fabric of humanity. The plot develops slowly at first but then progresses with greater intensity, leading the reader to a satisfying conclusion that brings the story full circle. This is a heartwarming new chapter for readers of the popular Windflower Saga. An enjoyable read.