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The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick

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diamondlil
Bibliomaniac

The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick

Postby diamondlil » Tue August 26th, 2008, 10:59 am

In the wild, windswept Welsh marches a noble young lord rides homewards, embittered, angry and in danger. He is Guyon, lord of Ledworth, heir to threatened lands, husband-to-be of Judith of Ravenstow. Their union will save his lands - but they have yet to meet...

For this is Wales at the turn of the twelfth century. Dynasties forge and fight, and behind the precarious throne of William Rufus political intrigue is raging. Caught amidst the violence are Judith and Guyon, bound together yet poles apart. But when a dark secret from the past is revealed and the full horror of war crashes over Guyon and Judith they are forced to face insurmountable odds. Together...


I have this crazy tendency to want to read authors works in order, especially if I try a new release and like it. Having read and really enjoyed the last three new books by Elizabeth Chadwick, it was time to go back to the beginning and start glomming the back list, and you can't get any more back than this book - the first book published by Elizabeth Chadwick. In fact, this book has been out of print for a long time and for a while there I very much lamented the fact that I couldn't find a reasonably priced copy anywhere, until I finally lucked out on Ebay and bought a copy from the UK. Fast forward just under two years and I finally managed to read it, and quite frankly I don't know what I was thinking of waiting so long to do so!

The book opens with Guyon somewhat reluctantly having to marry a young girl, at the persuasive encouragement (or perhaps less encouragement than given no choice) of King William Rufus. By doing so, he is able to protect his own inheritance but also gets to stop his enemy Robert de Belleme from gaining further. The young girl is Judith of Ravenstow, and de Belleme is her paternal uncle who has his eye on her land. The young couple therefore marry hastily without having ever met each other previously. Guyon is handsome and sophisticated, with an established reputation at court as something of a romancer. For all Guyon's experience, Judith is an innocent, perhaps unusually so. She is well trained at the arts of healing and in the other skills required in order to run a household, but when it comes to interaction with the males of the species, she only has the abusive example of how her father treated her mother and she is skittish to say the least.

Guyon is prepared to be patient with Judith, until she is ready to deal with him as her husband, but as the relationship deepens between them, so the conflicts in the Marches and the Royal Court also deepen with Guyon getting caught up in the plotting and battling that is endemic in the court at the end of the 11th century and beginning of the 12th century.

It is hard not to compare this first book of Chadwick's with the later books because in many ways they are very different. There is less balance between the relationship between the characters and the battles and politics of medieval England. I think the sexual tension and the build up to the consummation of the marriage is less subtle than we see in her later books. The language of the novel is much less concise and at times there is too much description.

Having said all of that, the story itself was excellent, and I certainly was enchanted by Guyon. What Chadwick hasn't done with this character is made him whiter than snow. He is known at Court for his liaisons with the ladies, and very early on in the novel we know that he is prepared to take care of his responsibilities in this regard. We also know that he is a man of honour, and of faithfulness once he is married. He is in fact an all round good guy. If not for his past indiscretions there would be a chance that he would be too good to be true, but I can live with that. In fact, I wonder if I was to venture out to the Welsh Marches today whether I would be able to find my own Guyon - good looking, honourable, courageous. Yes please!

The same can not be said for the bad guys who are all very bad, but again this is something that I was willing to forgive because the actual story itself is so good!

Elizabeth Chadwick has confirmed that this book and the two others that form part of the Ravenstow trilogy are being rereleased after having been edited. In the case of this book, there have been approx 15000 words cut out of it, so it will be interesting at some stage to read the new version and see how it holds up to the revisions. The new version of the book is being released in the UK in December, and the cover is to the right, and fits in beautifully with the cover treatment that her newer books are receiving.

This is another winner from Elizabeth Chadwick, and I am very much looking forward to reading the other two books in this trilogy.

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Telynor
Bibliophile
Location: On the Banks of the Hudson

Postby Telynor » Sun January 18th, 2009, 8:04 pm

(This is for the new edition that has been re-edited and reprinted by Sphere books)

Continuing on my adventures with British author Elizabeth Chadwick, January's pick was her first novel, <i>The Wild Hunt.</i> Usually, I don't expect much out of a first novel, knowing that they're usually not that good, or that they're going to be that brief flash in the pan, and the author rapidly sinks into mediocrity afterwards. But every now and then, an author makes that big leap, and just keeps getting better. Alas, that doesn't happen too often.

Fortunately, Ms. Chadwick is among the latter.

Set during the turn of the twelfth century, <i>The Wild Hunt</i> opens in a dramatic fashion. Guyon, a young knight, finds out that he has been ordered to marry a young heiress, Judith of Ravenstow. If he doesn't marry her, the king will give the girl's lands to someone else, and Guyon will fall very far from the king's favour -- a necessity in the rough years following the Norman Conquest. For Guyon, to have such a rich holding for himself is a lifelong dream, a means of establishing power for himself, far away from the serpentine politics of the royal court -- and especially the sexual attentions of the king, William Rufus.

As for his bride, Judith is little more than a child, only sixteen when she marries Guyon, and she is terrified of the physical aspects of marriage. But then, the only example of a marriage that she has experienced is that of her parents -- and her father was a very brutal man, beating his wife and daughter whenever the whim took him. Adversity builds strength, and despite her young age, Judith is determined to stand up to her new husband, and not be a weakling.

Marriage turns out to be a surprise for both Guyon and Judith, with a very rough start for them both, never have met each other before their wedding day. What with the Welsh raiding over the border, and Judith's uncle Robert de Belleme determined to make mischief, it's almost too much to handle for the young couple. Judith however fears the worst, especially when she discovers that her husband had a Welsh mistress by the name of Rhosyn, and that she is pregnant. Even before the marriage settles, there are some rough patches to overcome and a mutual distrust between the partners. Can they possibly find a middle ground before their enemies overtake them?

Some elements of the novel I really enjoyed, such as Guyon's dog and Judith's cat, not to mention that Ms. Chadwick has a very good sense of how life was lived in the medieval period. That is one of her strong points and she can create a very vivid sense of 'being there' in her storytelling. Another strong point is her use of historical people and places, without making them overly romantic or sentimentalized. My only real complaint with this one is that Guyon and Judith are nearly too perfect, but fortunately, Ms. Chadwick doesn't fall too far into that trap, and I found myself actually liking the pair of them by the end of the book.

While this novel does fall into the category of a historical romance, there is plenty of history for the reader to enjoy as well. Nearly everyone besides Guyon and Judith and their families actually lived and breathed, and there is very little in the story that is fictional. There really was a Robert de Belleme in history, and he was just as terrible and feared as Ms. Chadwick makes him out to be. He was later on immortalized in opera as <i>Robert le Diable</i> -- Robert the Devil. So too is William Rufus and happily, Ms. Chadwick doesn't hold back on his character either -- the events of the New Forest really did happen that way, and it has remained one of the more interesting mysteries to come out of the middle ages.

Another touch that I liked here was the addition of the Welsh to the story. Yes, they were anything but romantic in the middle ages, and a constant thorn in the side of England's Marcher barons. One trap that many historical authors have fallen into is glorifying the underdog as it were, and have turned them into noble freedom fighters against Norman agression. That's somewhat true, considering that the English were trying to take over their lands, but they were equally bloodthirsty and ready for a fight if the odds were in their advantage.

An interesting sidenote is that this book won the Betty Trask award, given for first novels with a historical or traditional setting by authors under the age of thirty-five.

All in all, this earns a very solid four star rating from me. It's not quite as good as Ms. Chadwick's later novels, but compared to most of what gets passed off as historical these days, it's a very fine, very good read, and worth a reread or two. This is just the first novel in the Ravenstow trilogy with <I>The Running Vixen</I> and <I>The Leopard Unleashed</I> coming next. I don't know if these two books will be republished, but if they are anything like the first book, they'll be worth seeking out in the future.

Four stars. Recommended.

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Sun January 18th, 2009, 8:22 pm

I have the original version of the book along with the other two in the trilogy. Guyan and Judith are a great pair and make for good story telling -- although their son in the last book and what he brought back from the crusades :) ;) :p

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diamondlil
Bibliomaniac

Postby diamondlil » Sun January 18th, 2009, 8:28 pm

I just finished reading the third book and am sad to have finished with Ravenstow, and yes Olwen was something wasn't she
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There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

Edith Wharton

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Sun January 18th, 2009, 8:56 pm

"diamondlil" wrote:and yes Olwen was something wasn't she


:D :) :o :eek:

She certainly was quite a bag of goods, wasn't she?

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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Postby EC2 » Mon January 19th, 2009, 10:11 pm

Thanks guys!
I'm just reworking The Running Vixen at the moment, and then The Leopard Unleashed will be reworked next year. I'm busy cutting, pruning and tightening right left and centre. I think that back then I'd reached a stage where I was good enough to be published but still with a lot to learn - especially about being verbose and over-egging the description! It's really interesting revisiting these novels at the more romantic end of my oevre when I had fewer tools in the work box so to speak.

Marg, Leopard Unleashes is due out December 2010. I'm due to re-edit it this time next year.

I still have my hand written first chapter of The Wild Hunt. We were on holiday in the days before laptops, so it's written on pages torn from a jotter and held together with a wooden clothes peg! It's actually a totally different first chapter to the published novel, but moving in the eventual direction it was to take.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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Telynor
Bibliophile
Location: On the Banks of the Hudson

Postby Telynor » Wed January 21st, 2009, 11:10 am

"EC2" wrote:Thanks guys!
I'm just reworking The Running Vixen at the moment, and then The Leopard Unleashed will be reworked next year. I'm busy cutting, pruning and tightening right left and centre. I think that back then I'd reached a stage where I was good enough to be published but still with a lot to learn - especially about being verbose and over-egging the description! It's really interesting revisiting these novels at the more romantic end of my oevre when I had fewer tools in the work box so to speak.

Marg, Leopard Unleashes is due out December 2010. I'm due to re-edit it this time next year.

I still have my hand written first chapter of The Wild Hunt. We were on holiday in the days before laptops, so it's written on pages torn from a jotter and held together with a wooden clothes peg! It's actually a totally different first chapter to the published novel, but moving in the eventual direction it was to take.


I'm very glad to heard that the next two books will be rereleased in the future. I found the character of Robert de Belleme very interesting -- does he make a reappearance? I've always heard bits of legend that he had a sister, Isabelle, who was just as bloodthirsty as he was.

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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Postby EC2 » Wed January 21st, 2009, 11:25 am

"Telynor" wrote:I'm very glad to heard that the next two books will be rereleased in the future. I found the character of Robert de Belleme very interesting -- does he make a reappearance? I've always heard bits of legend that he had a sister, Isabelle, who was just as bloodthirsty as he was.


No he doesn't, he would be quite interesting to know more about though. Other than his sadistic behaviour, he is famour for introducing Spanish blood horses to the Welsh borders. I'd not heart about his bloodthirsty sister, but Mabel his mother was supposed to be that way inclined. Apparently she was murdered while taking a bath. (which goes to show medieval people did take baths, even if it was sometimes dangerous to do so!)
Les proz e les vassals

Souvent entre piez de chevals

Kar ja li coard n’I chasront



'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'


Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal



www.elizabethchadwick.com

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diamondlil
Bibliomaniac

Postby diamondlil » Wed January 21st, 2009, 11:33 am

That's bad luck isn't it! Take a bath infrequently and get murdered doing so! Wrong place, wrong time! ;)
My Blog - Reading Adventures



All things Historical Fiction - Historical Tapestry





There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.



Edith Wharton

User avatar
Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Wed January 21st, 2009, 3:17 pm

"EC2" wrote: Apparently she was murdered while taking a bath. (which goes to show medieval people did take baths, even if it was sometimes dangerous to do so!)


Is there any chance that's the Mabel Talvas that Valerie Anand had in The Disputed Crown? She was quite delightfully evil with her poisonous drafts and bumping people off.


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