I talked a little bit about the back story of The Greatest Knight in this Sunday Salon post. The novel covers the life of William Marshal from when he was a newly-minted knight, up until King Richard returns from crusade and capture in 1194. The title of the novel comes from Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton (1150-1228), who described William Marshal as being "the greatest knight that ever lived." Even if you don't believe Langton's statement, Marshal definitely had a reputation for being courtly, acquired while in the service of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her sons, Henry the Younger, Richard, and John. He also acquired a reputation for his political prowess.
What can I say? I loved this book! Elizabeth Chadwick bit off a lot in telling William Marshal’s story, because she could have gotten mired in the details of the complicated politics of the period. Instead, she focused on Marshal’s story as it related to those events, which I thought was fantastic. Chadwick’s research is meticulous, and her eye for small details makes you fell as though you're actually there experiencing things with William. With regards to the man himself, may I just say that I have not just the slightest crush on him? Chadwick portrays him as courteous, loyal, charismatic, and intelligent (hmmm, maybe the author has a bit of a crush on him herself?). I had to force myself to read The Greatest Knight slowly, because I wanted to take it all in one bit at a time. I enjoyed this book so much that I’ve already ordered and am anticipating reading the sequel, The Scarlet Lion. A good piece of news is that The Greatest Knight will (finally) be published in print and electronic form in the US next fall!
Also recommended: Devil’s Brood, by Sharon Kay Penman.
Also reviewed by: Medieval Bookworm, Reading Adventures, Becky's Book Reviews, Books I Done Read, Devourer of Books, A Work in Progress, Passages to the Past, S. Krishna's Books, The Tome Traveller's Weblog