Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Outlaw Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: October 2, 2013

Fulke FitzWarin has played many roles -- loyal knight, dangerous outlaw, dashing lover, loyal husband. But when a violent quarrel with King John disrupts Fulke's ambition to become Lord of his own castle, his true character as a valiant hero is revealed.

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How does one describe reading Chadwick? I began contemplating the question when I received The Outlaw Knight for review and even after reading the book the only thing I'm sure of is that I am incapable of doing justice to the author or her work. 

Do you start in with the emotional beauty of her stories? Give comment on the range and depth she portrays in John's petulant outbursts, Jean's brotherly affection and William's stubborn pride? Or it is better to highlight the intricate complexities of the interrelationships her characters enjoy, for example the fraternal loyalty shared by Theobald and Hubert or the steadfast devotion that exists between Fulke and Maude. 

Of course one can't forget the author's obvious attention to detail. Close your eyes and you can picture the stable yard at Alberbury, the garrison at Whittington and even the salting larder at Shipley. Honestly, Chadwick takes scene building to an entirely different level, immersing her readers in the world her characters inhabit by crafting a vivid and comprehensive portrait of medieval life within the confines of a fictional narrative. I don't often agree with promotional endorsements, but Sharon Kay Penman was spot on when she declared these books the next best thing to time travel. 

Then again, perhaps it is best to go in an entirely different direction and describe Chadwick's gift for storytelling. Her ability to manipulate both history and mythology in the tale of a marcher lord who becomes an outlaw, tames Welsh dragons, slays Irish serpents and defies his king in the name of honor, justice, chivalry, and pride. 

When all is said and done, I suppose it doesn't matter. For years I've made due shoving Chadwick's books at my friends with the terse order to read and thank me later. It isn't a particularly articulate recommendation, but it seems to work well enough. Suffice it to say that true to form, The Outlaw Knight, is a wonderfully addictive read. A beautiful story you can't help but fall in love with. 

*Note: This title was previously published as Lords of the White Castle. 

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"By God on the Cross and the Devil in the pit of hell, I will give Fulke FitzWarin and his brothers the justice of common law," he choked. "I will have them strung from the gibbet on Whittington's battlements and they can gaze on their land from from there!"
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