Original date of publication: 1999
My edition: 2006 (Sphere)
Why I decided to read: it’s Elizabeth Chadwick; what else can I say?
How I acquired my copy: Waterstone’s bookshop, Piccadilly, London, September 2009
Miriel is an unruly, headstrong girl, whose stepfather places her in the convent of St. Catherine. While there, she comes into contact with Nicholas de Caen, a rebel against King John. While still a prisoner, Nicholas rescues John’s infamous treasure from the swamp, and attempts to run away—accidentally (or not) taking Miriel with him. Their adventures, together and apart, take place over the course of about five years, as hate eventually turns to love.
It’s true that Elizabeth Chadwick’s books, especially those about fictional characters, tend to follow a certain pattern: two would-be lovers are torn asunder by circumstances beyond their control, and they must battle against the odds to eventually return to one another. The main female character usually is very headstrong., and there’s often a nails-on-a-chalkboard bad guy thrown in to complicate the plot. The Marsh King’s Daughter is a little different, however; the excitement in this book lies in the fact that Nicholas and Miriel don’t know that they’re attracted to one another—in fact, they have every reason to hate the other! So it’s this tension that gives the novel that extra excitement. I’ve described Elizabeth Chadwick’s heroines as headstrong, which usually equates to modern; not so with Chadwick’s female characters. I never get the feeling that Miriel, or even Nicholas or the other characters, never stepped out of the thirteenth century.
Elizabeth Chadwick is also extraordinarily skilled at recreating the feel of the thirteenth century. She’s mostly known for her novels about the twelfth century, but she depicts this period of time just as well as she does the other. With Chadwick’s novels, you’re guaranteed a historically accurate read, without being bogged down in too much overwhelming detail. There’s only so much that anyone can really know” about people or places from 700 years ago, but Elizabeth Chadwick really knows how to pull the pieces together. In all, this is another good, solid novel from Elizabeth Chadwick. I’ve only got four novels left of hers to read (including the forthcoming To Defy a King) and I’m really trying to parcel them out!