Set in the years after the Norman Conquest, The Winter Mantle begins with the Waltheof and Judith, one an English captive and the other a Norman and the niece of William of Normandy. They should hate each other, right? They marry for love (or lust), though not all is a bed of roses. The story continues on into the next generation with their daughter, Matilda, and Simon de Senlis, a young Norman knight.
Chadwick’s historical fiction is always top-notch. She really knows how to transport her readers back into another time, into the lives of people who jump off the page, even though they’ve been dead for hundreds of years. I love how she makes the reader become emotionally invested in her characters, even though you might not like them—Judith certainly isn’t my favorite of Chadwick’s heroines, but I really got involved in her story. According to Chadwick’s note at the end, it’s been popularly believed that Judith held some responsibility for betraying her husband to William, but the author handles this detail very well, I thought. And Waltheof is certainly no William Marshal, but I was sympathetic towards him, too.
Another thing I love about this book is how well-researched it is. Chadwick probably spends more time and exerts more energy researching her settings and people than other authors do, and it certainly shows here. The Winter Mantle covers thirty years of history, but Chadwick doesn’t skimp on anything to give her readers a sweeping novel about love, hope and faith. I have a copy of The Falcons of Montabard on my ever-growing TBR pile, and I have about a half dozen more EC books on order.
Also reviewed by: Medieval Bookworm