Aleksandra Layland’s Windflower Saga Novella’s 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 Ermitrude and Ermen. Lady Ermitrude enters the convent and becomes a Nun, Sister Ermitrude. 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 Kimbrian’s, both Ermitrude 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 novella’s, such a 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 character’s 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.