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Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick

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Location: Seattle, WA

Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick

Postby Misfit » Tue August 26th, 2008, 4:13 pm

A wonderful coming of age story. This book is the story of Fulke "Brunin" Fitzwarin, taking him from childhood to his manhood. As a young boy, Brunin withdraws into himself to avoid the pain from his domineering overbearing grandmother, and his father sends him to train as a squire to Joscelin de Dinan. As Brunin blossoms under Joscelin's care, he eventually becomes a strong young man and a knight to be reckoned with, and he learns to deal with the shadows of his youth and banish them forever.

Brunin and Joselin's daughter Hawise began as childhood friends growing up together, to becoming man and wife, while trouble and conspiracies threaten their happiness. As always with Chadwick's books, the way she brings the medieval period to life in such a graceful and effortless way, be it the sights, sounds, smells, food, clothes and battles is just awesome. As quoted on some of her book jackets, the next best thing to time travel. 5/5 stars.

Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Sun September 28th, 2008, 2:48 pm

I'm very interested in Marion's character. I wasn't sure I totally believed that what she did could really happen - but then I read EC's author's note. I'd like to know more about the real person - anyone have any links?

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Location: Nottingham UK

Postby EC2 » Sun September 28th, 2008, 5:49 pm

Ash, she is a very shadowy figure. I tried to find out more about her to the best of my ability but other than the Romance of Fouke FitzWaryn, which is half-made up and half-truth, she doesn't come to light, although a man with a variation of her name was one of King John's right hand men, so she may have belonged to a family of that name. I don't know if a trained academic or historian would be able to find out more but I certainly haven't come across her beyond the family chronicle.
There are various reports of people managing to sneak into (and out of!) castles in clandestine fashion - some that actually happened, others that existed in popular medieval literary culture, so you pays your money and you takes your choice as to what really happened at Ludlow.
The tower of Marion's last scene in the novel still exists. I may have mentioned before that I had to rewrite that scene with Marion. I'd originally had the tower window facing the courtyard. Then on a second research visit to Ludlow I had a closer look at the layout and discovered that the tower faced the ditch - yikes! I hastened home and rewrote the piece to correct the positioning of that window and what happened.
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


Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Sun September 28th, 2008, 5:59 pm

Thanks. I did read your comments in the author notes about the possiblity of her ghost haunting the area. I don't doubt there were inside jobs; just seemed strange that a child of the familiy would be the culprit, even one starry eyed in love! But that is what made the story even more tragic.

We did go there years ago; I'd like to go back sometime, now that I have a little bit more of the historical background.

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Location: On the Banks of the Hudson

Postby Telynor » Sat October 4th, 2008, 12:41 am

Every couple of years or so, British author Elizabeth Chadwick delivers up a new adventure of life in the tumultuous twelfth century for her fans. Whenever I find myself waiting impatiently for her next new release, I go through her backlist of novels to help me bide the time.

This time with the novel, <I>Shadows and Strongholds,</I> the story is set on the Welsh frontier of England in the twelfth century. It is a rather untamed place, where the lords of the various castles and manors are on a constant state of alert for the Welsh to come raiding, their favourite hobby being the cattle rustling and stealing women away. Too, they don't fight like the English, much preferring a quick hit-and-run approach rather than the more organized Norman way of battle.

Into this world is born Brunin FitzWarin. Brunin is the second son of a powerful nobleman, and has grown up in the shadow of his fearsome grandmother, the sharp-tongued Mellette. Mellette has never bothered to hide her contempt for the child, and has encouraged his brothers to tease and torment him, causing Brunin to retreat into himself, doubting his own abilities, a fatal flaw in a culture that prided itself on personal courage and warfare. When he goes with his father to St. Peters Fair in the nearby town of Shrewsbury, Brunin gets a hard lesson in medieval politics when he is beaten and nearly killed by squires of his father's rival, Gilbert de Lacy. His father furious, but a family friend, Joscelin de Dinan, offers to help by taking Brunin into his household for training. It's a solution that Fulk happily agrees to.

In Joscelin's stronghold of Ludlow Castle, ten year old Brunin gets to discover a world that he could scarcely dream of. At Ludlow he finds that Joscelin's wife, Sybilla, is a kind mentor, and his daughters, Sibbi and Hawise, are just as forceful and proud as their father. Hawise in particular becomes a close friend, sharing in his adventures, and even the adoring, kittenish, Marion, forms a bond with him. In this nurturing environment, Brunin is able to build his self-reliance and finds a talent for warfare and courage within himself. Both of these talents will be needed when he suddenly succeeds to his father's lands just as civil war for England's crown overtakes the Welsh marches, and everyone at Ludlow risks losing everything that they have built...

Yes, there is a follow-up to this one, <I>Lords of the White Castle,</I> published several years earlier, but taking place after the events of <I>Shadows and Strongholds.</I>

I really took to the story of Brunin and Hawise. Brunin is a very sympathetic character, a young man that finds the strength inside of himself to succeed. Hawise is more of a partner to him than just a broodmare of a wife, clever in her own way, and able to work with her husband -- and lucky enough to have a husband that sees that valuable trait in her. The secondary characters are just as interesting, especially Joscelin and Sybilla, and who can't help but wince at the choices that Marion makes? Even the villains of the piece, the de Lacys and their henchmen, inspire some understanding, and moves them beyond the usual two-dimensional figures that are all too common.

I have to say that Elizabeth Chadwick has become one of my favourite authors to read. Her research is based around solid research about the actual people and times of the period -- and yes, Josecelin, Sybilla, Brunin and Hawise all lived, and even poor Marion is an actual historical figure. It's this ability to turn a legend or story into people that the reader gets to know and like, and not resorting to the trivialities of most historical fiction, that makes this author really stand out from the lackluster fiction that most historical fiction tends to pass itself as. While her books are indeed rather thick, and do take time to get through, the patient reader will be greatly rewarded.

What I enjoy the most about Ms. Chadwick's work is that she remains focused on the people and times of the period. Her research is spot on, and has the feel of actually being there in an age of chivalry. Yes, it's very much a man's world, where women have little political voice and power, but behind the scenes, they could have a great deal of influence. As to the round of daily life, the details of the battlefield and such things as clothing, food and music, Ms. Chadwick has gotten to know what she is doing, by being brave enough to be with historical reinactors and learns by doing. It's this little step that fills her novels with so much life that I swear I can feel the medieval period come to life around me, and isn't that, after all, what we read historical fiction for?

Don't let the cover fool you, these are not the sappy, sticky historical romances that tend to litter bookstores. This is straight up historical fiction based in fact and worth every penny. The more I read of Ms. Chadwick's work, the more I want of her novels. Fans of Sharon Kay Penman and the early works of Roberta Gellis are urged to give her books a try, you won't be disappointed.

Four and a half stars, round up to five. Enthusiastically recommended.

Sadly, Elizabeth Chadwick's books are not published here in the United States and prices for used copies tend to be a bit inflated. Go to http://www.bookdepository.co.uk to get your hands on her titles.

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Currently reading: An Abiding Fire by M L Logue & The Flower Girls by Alice Clark Platts
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Postby Vanessa » Mon October 6th, 2008, 2:32 pm

I've just finished this book and I loved it, I thought it was thoroughly enjoyable. I really liked the characters and thought they were well drawn. I was so sorry to leave them all when I eventually read the last page.

Marion was a sad character and in some respects I don't think time has changed much! There are still some silly girls around with regards to men, willing to be doormats. I don't think that will ever change.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

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Location: Tasmania, Australia

Postby Ellie » Sat October 25th, 2008, 2:03 am

I've read this book twice and loved it! My memory is a bit hazy but from what I can remember Marion could be quite irritating but you can't help but feel sorry for her.

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cw gortner
Location: San Francisco,CA

Postby cw gortner » Sat October 25th, 2008, 2:52 am

I'm going to have buy this one. I've been eyeing it on Book Depository and must admit, it's my favorite EC cover - just gorgeous. The story doesn't look too shabby, either ;)
THE QUEEN'S VOW available on June 12, 2012!
THE TUDOR SECRET, Book I in the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles


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Location: Tasmania, Australia

Postby Ellie » Sat October 25th, 2008, 3:12 am

I couldn't reccomend it highly enough!

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Compulsive Reader
Currently reading: Jonkvrouw - Jean-Claude Van Ryckeghem
Interest in HF: I love history
Favorite HF book: Can't pin that down to only 1 :-)
Preferred HF: Medieval, Tudor and Ancient Egyptian
Location: Ghent, Belgium

Postby Carine » Sat October 25th, 2008, 1:12 pm

I'm near the end of it now and I'll be sorry when I finish it ! It's a fantastic read, as are all EC's books that I've read up to now (this was the 4th).

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