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Reviewed by Edith Wairimu for Readers' Favorite
Saxon Heroines: A Northumbrian Novel by Sandra Wagner-Wright is a brilliant recreation of the lives of inspiring heroines from seventh-century Northumbria and other parts of England. In AD 624, Princess Ethelberga of Kent marries King Edwin of Northumbria, a pagan king who attributes his success in war to Woden’s luck. Through Ethelberga’s influence, King Edwin converts to Christianity. Among others who convert in the King’s court include young Princess Hildeburg of Northumbria, who grows up to become the wise Abbess of Streoneshalh. Ethelberga’s daughter, Princess Enﬂeda of Northumbria, later becomes Queen of Northumbria and helps maintain political alliances. Her daughter, Princess Elﬂeda, follows in Hildeburg’s footsteps and becomes an abbess who helps create religious unity within Northumbria.
Despite the less significant roles that women played during this era, the women in the story intelligently apply their wisdom to create significant change. They are critical in maintaining kingdom alliances and they offer their wisdom on important matters. Their lives are fraught with danger and calamity but, despite the problems that they face, they move forward and make the best of the roles accorded to them in the ever-changing political and religious landscape in England at the time. After the death of her husband and king, Queen Ethelberga accepts her role as an abbess and helps construct a women’s monastery for women without families in Kent. Other women in the story also influence important religious and political decisions in the kingdom. Saxon Heroines: A Northumbrian Novel by Sandra Wagner-Wright is an intriguing historical work of heroines from seventh-century England.