Sunday, September 20, 2009

Review: The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick

As a five year old child, William Marshal was sent by his father to the court of King a hostage. His father must have expected to never see his son again, with the bloody civil war that was raging it was likely that little William would be executed. But King Stephen took a liking to the brave little boy and couldn't bring himself to kill him. From that experience, William learned the loyalty and sense of duty that he would live by for his entire life.

During his training as a knight, William was a bit of an outsider. Soon though, his talent with horses, plus a bit of luck, bring him to the attention of the new royal family. Henry I and Eleanor of Aquitaine take notice of the young knight and when William saves Eleanor's life during a surprise raid, he earns her lasting goodwill. He is placed with the heir to the throne, Prince Henry, and given the responsibility for his training and instruction.

As the young Prince and his brothers grow, turmoil begins to boil and the relationship between the brothers and their father sours. During the strife that pits each of them against the other, William steadfastly stands beside Prince Henry, even though he agrees with almost nothing that the young man decides to do. Despite many terrible actions on the Prince's part, William is there to support him and help him, he is loyal almost to a fault.

When the unthinkable happens, William is shattered. He departs on a two year pilgrimage to the Holy Land where he tries to reconcile his past and find a way to move forward with his life. After his return, all his service is eventually rewarded when he is given the hand of Isabelle de Clare, a rich but lonely young heiress. Despite the fact that William is years older than Isabel, the two form a surprisingly happy and supportive marriage.

William Marshal's Tomb

Once again, Elizabeth Chadwick has given us a rich and detailed historical fiction novel, filled with excellent research and lively characters. William is a complex man: loyal, committed, giving, but with a sore spot in his heart that keeps him from a close bond with his family. He is definitely his own man but his is a lonely life. He had quite a view of the volatile Plantagenet clan, Ms. Chadwick's envisioning of his experiences there make for a fascinating read.

As I finished this book, I marvelled at how one man could fit so much into one lifetime. But it turns out that The Greatest Knight is not the end of the Marshal story! It will be continued in her next book, The Scarlet Lion, which should be released in the Spring of 2010.

For more information on Elizabeth Chadwick and all of her fantastic books, visit her website. She also has a wonderful blog, Living the History, where you will find all sorts of interesting historical information and photos. Her blog is one of my favorites! She recently posted twenty of her favorite historical fiction novels (from her "Keeper" shelf...I have one of those, too! Do you?). About half of them were new to me, so I was thrilled to add them to my wish list. I always love discovering new (to me) historical fiction!

The Greatest Knight is published by Sourcebooks, ISBN 978-1-4022-2518-5


S. Krishna said...

I loved this book. Nice review!

Mary Kontrary said...

Putting this one on my Must Read list! Thanks for the great review.

Daphne said...

This is one of my all time favorites! Chadwick actually continues the story of William's life in The Scarlet Lion (already released in the UK and will be released in the US by Sourcebooks in the spring). I believe To Defy a King is about one of his daughters.

The Tome Traveller said...

AAAGGHHH! Thank you Daphne, fixing that now!

Amy said...

I'll be adding this one to my reading list. Thanks for the great review!

bermudaonion said...

Everyone seems to love this book! I am going to have to look for it one day.

Ellz said...

This sounds wonderful. Great review.

Stephanie said...

This sounds terrific! I've been interested in this book for a while, and your description of the author's development of this character piqued my interest even more. :-)

Lucy said...

This book sounds so exciting and I really do want to read it. Chadwick is amazing. Great review- Thanks:)

Laura's Reviews said...

Great review - this book sounds fantastic! I'm adding it to my lng TBR list!

Beth F said...

I recently won this book and cannot wait to read it.

Jen - devourer of books said...

Oh, Sourcebooks IS releasing the next one? Fantastic!

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

I'd just like to say thanks for the lovely review!
Yes, Sourcebooks is publishing The Scarlet Lion - Spring, but I'm not sure which month of the spring yet!
However, I am working on the edits (or supposed to be) as I speak.

Zibilee said...

I just won a copy of this book in a giveaway, and I am so glad that you liked it and thought it was a great read. I, too, am looking forward to it. Much more so after reading your fantastic review. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This one's already on my wish list. Thanks for the review.

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.