Sunday, May 16, 2010

Review: The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick

The Scarlet LionFrom the Back Cover:

How a Hero Becomes a Legend...

Already known as a knight of uncommon skill and honor, William Marshal has earned the friendship of King Richard and the love of a wealthy heiress. But when the Lionheart dies, leaving his treacherous brother John on the throne, William and Isabelle need all of their strength and courage to face a shattered world. Their sons held hostage, their integrity at stake, the two must choose between obeying their king or honoring their hearts. Breathing life into history, Elizabeth Chadwick provides a riveting novel of an uncommon marriage between a man of valor and the only woman who could match him.

I first discovered William as a minor player in Sharon Kay Penman's trilogy about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, which is fabulous, by the way, as all of her books are. I wanted to read more about William so I picked up Elizabeth Chadwick's first novel about William Marshal, The Greatest Knight: The Unsung Story of the Queen's Champion, which covered his younger life as a knight on the tournament circuit and companion to the young King Henry. I really enjoyed it and I was surprised to discover that I enjoyed this novel chronicling his later years even more. I figured since he was now a husband and a father and getting older that the second half of his life wouldn't be as exciting as the first, but I was wrong!

As a husband, a father, and a powerful earl, William has more at stake than ever before. William swears his loyalty to King John, but when John's barons begin to turn on him as war with France looms and William's vast Norman estates are endangered, John takes William's two eldest sons as surety that William won't turn on him, too. William walks a lonely path as he struggles to maintain his honor while serving a faithless king, a position that often puts him at odds with his wife, Isabelle, and later, with his eldest son, Will.

This book spans twenty-two years -- a lifetime of court intrigue, war, loss and renewal, of important moments in history, and Ms. Chadwick does a fabulous job of weaving it all together, centering her story around a pair of characters that are all too easy to fall in love with. Isabelle has come a long way from her days as a sequestered royal ward and really holds her own in this one, proving herself a worthy partner for the Marshall. And as for William, what can I say? He was a great man and a great character in Ms. Chadwick's capable hands. Her portayal of the last days of William's life was beautiful and poignant. I knew it was going to be hard to say goodbye to him and to watch Isabelle lose him. The last scene of the book was a perfect ending and a fitting tribute to his memory. Really the whole book is a wonderful portrait of a man who lived as honorably as he could and the woman who loved him. Elizabeth Chadwick is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

Rating:  5 Stars out of 5


  1. Elizabeth Chadwick certainly has a way with her storytelling doesn't she. She is now firmly on my list of favourites!

  2. Full marks from you means this book really must be good. Thanks.

  3. I enjoyed this one as well. I'm waiting on To Defy a King.

  4. I skimmed your review - it's on my wish list so I'm happy you liked it!

  5. I'm with Marg, Chadwick has been tops with me for several years now.

  6. Enjoy you Kobo!! How exciting. I also hope to read The Daughters of Wishing Hill.


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