Monday, January 5, 2009
Review: The Scarlet Lion, by Elizabeth Chadwick
At the end of The Greatest Knight, we saw William Marshal become one of the most powerful men in England, and married to Isabelle de Clare. The Scarlet Lion is a continuation of that novel, and in it we witness the evolution and growth of the Marshal family under the reign of King John and his son Henry. In this novel, Isabelle takes over part of the story. The books are standalone novels, but they’re best appreciated when read together or as near together as possible.
I enjoyed The Scarlet Lion, but not as much as I enjoyed The Greatest Knight. It was partially because I felt that William’s story melted into the background in favor of Isabelle’s and his children’s. And I felt as though the author basically shrugged off the Magna Carta, turning it into a one-paragraph non sequitur. Nnetheless, I greatly enjoyed this book, for many of the reasons why I ejoyed its predecessor.
Isabelle is by far the most likeable character, strong in the face of adversity. Elizabeth Chadwick writes about the early 13th century in a way that makes the politics of the period seem uncomplicated—no small feat. Fact and fiction are pretty seamlessly woven together in this novel. As always, Chadwick’s knowledge of the medieval period is spot-on, and she makes people who have been dead for 800 years seem as though they’ve only been gone since yesterday. As Chadwick says in a note at the end of the novel, William Marshal’s accomplishments were outstanding by the standards of any age, and I can definitely see why; he and Isabelle and their children fairly leap off the page. Chadwick’s writing style is engaging, and even though I knew how the story would turn out, I kept turning the pages rapidly, eager to know what would happen. I’m not sure why Elizabeth Chadwick’s novels aren’t more widely read, a shame considering how good her books are.
Challenges: The 2nds Challenge, The A to Z Challenge
Also reviewed by: Reading Adventures, A Work in Progress, Devourer of Books