Saturday, December 14, 2013

New Review: Elizabeth Chadwick’s THE OUTLAW KNIGHT – A Sweeping Historical Saga and a Captivating Love Story—the real Robin Hood of Legend

First published in the UK as LORDS OF THE WHITE CASTLE, this follows the FitzWarin family saga begun in SHADOWS AND STRONGHOLDS, but can be read alone (SHADOWS AND STRONGHOLDS was written after this one).

Set in medieval England, beginning in 1184, it takes up as Fulke, the oldest son of the FitzWarin Marcher Lords, at age 15 becomes a squire of Ranulf de Glanville, the Justicar. Fulke’s family is hoping through influence with King Henry and his court to regain Whittingdon Castle in Shropshire, their inheritance lost in the Welsh wars to Roger de Powys.
While acting the squire, Fulke runs afoul of young Prince John’s cruel temper during a game of chess and the two young men become life long enemies. Removed from court, Fulke becomes a squire to Theobald Walter, a powerful baron whose brother is the Archbishop. Years later, Fulke gains his knighthood just as a young, 12-year-old Maude le Vavasour is betrothed to Theobald, who is three times her age. When Fulke and Maud meet again, she is 16 and being wed to Theobald. Fulke and Maude become enamored with each other, though they avoid each other and remain true to their commitments. In the background lurks Prince John who hates Fulke and lusts for the beautiful young Maude.

Much happens over the years as we follow the lives of Fulke and Maude. As a historical note, Fulk III was a real person, who married Maud le Vavasour and rebelled against King John from 1201-1203, living in the woods as an outlaw ala Robin Hood. Lest you worry about him (as I did), Fulk III lived into his 90’s, which given his life and the times, was a miracle.

Chadwick brings the history to life with a richness that makes you feel like you’re living it. It’s a well-told tale with extensive historical detail and vivid pictures of the social and political happenings of the times. Chadwick’s medieval vocabulary, dialog and descriptions reflect considerable research, as do all her novels.

Both Fulke and Maude are compelling characters as well as real historic figures; you want to see them together. He is an honorable man much like the Robin Hood we imagine, and she is an intelligent, spirited young woman just like Maid Marian. It’s a love story that will keep you turning pages, I promise. I thought the way Chadwick dealt with the historical figure Clarice de Auberville was simply brilliant—and believable.

Though Chadwick typically writes historical fiction with romantic elements, there’s enough romance here to satisfy any lover of historical romance. It's going on my Best Medieval Romances list and my keeper shelf so you know I highly recommend it.

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