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Lords of the White Castle by Elizabeth Chadwick

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Telynor
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Lords of the White Castle by Elizabeth Chadwick

Post by Telynor » Sat October 4th, 2008, 1:43 am

This year, I'm steadily working my way through the novels of British author Elizabeth Chadwick. If I allow myself one novel a month, I should be able to last until October, when she has several books being released at the same time, without any serious pangs of withdrawal. Since the early 1990's, Elizabeth Chadwick has been writing novels set in the England and France of the 12th and 13th centuries, full of people who actually lived, and looking not just at the great events of the time, such as wars and crusades, but also at the lives of people who were of the minor nobility and gentry, giving new life to stories of chivalry.

In <i>The Lords of the White Castle,</i> she continues the story begun in <i>Shadows and Strongholds,</i> telling more of the FitzWarin family. A generation has passed, with Fulke le Brun, and his Hawise having raised up a brood of six sons. The eldest, also named Fulke, has been given a place in the household of Theobald Walter, a great landowner, and brother of a bishop. It's a place where he rubs shoulders with royalty and gains not just fighting skills, but also some of the finer social arts. Unfortunately, in young Fulke's case, things go awry during a chess game with King Henry's son, John, that results in a violent fight between the pair and a mutual loathing that will affect the FitzWarins for decades to come.

For during the early part of the reign of King Henry II, the FitzWarins had to give up the estate of Whittington in exchange for a lesser one. That loss has tormented the FitzWarins, and only the knowledge that there would be terrible repercussions has kept them from starting a bloody and private war between themselves, and the current owners of Whittington, the FitzRoger family. When King Richard grants that Whittington be returned to the FitzWarins, the FitzRogers refuse to give it up -- and just as it seems that Fulke le Brun is going to see justice done, King Richard dies, and a tragedy strikes the family.

His son, Fulke FitzWarin, is raw over the loss of his father, the continued presence of Morys FitzRoger at Whittington, and when the new king, John, refuses to honor the return of his family's estate, Fulke turns to outlawry. But he's not the only one who has been wronged by the new king.

King John seems to have a desire to stir up trouble everywhere now that he has his heart's desire of being king of England. Theobald Walter has married a young heiress, Maude la Vavasour, and while he is old enough to be her father twice over, it is a marriage of strong loyalty and devotion on both sides. While there's tension between Fulke and Maude, their own sense of personal honour keep them straying to anything physical between them. Theobald, a loyal subject of the king, is pushed to near rebellion when John accosts Maude, and she fights him off.

Other characters in Angevin English history appear as well. Ms. Chadwick's depiction of Isobel of Angouleme, John's twelve year old bride, is particularly on target.

Readers of <i>Shadows and Strongholds</i> will want to read this one, as it takes up the story of Brunin and Hawise's son, Fulke FitzWarin.

What I really enjoyed was that this story is based in fact. There was a lengthy ballad created about Fulke FitzWarin and his troubles with King John, and yes, he did take to the roads and woods as an outlaw with his brothers, seeking to wreck as much havoc as he could for King John. If this sounds very familiar to a famous story, it's very likely that Fulke was the inspiration for that outlaw. Along the way I get the usual standard of excellence that marks a novel by Elizabeth Chadwick -- smart characters, terrific depictions of daily life without anachronisms that scream to be noticed, and a real understanding of medieval culture and why people did what they did. It's that ability to create a very believable world, populate it with people who act and behave in the real world, and do it all with a sure hand is what keeps me returning to Elizabeth Chadwick's books, and trying to hold on during the times between new releases.

Unfortunately, there isn't an American publisher yet for Ms. Chadwick's novels, so for those readers who want to get their hands on her work, it's necessary to either check the local library and hope that they can get a copy through interlibrary loan, find a used copy on-line, or get a new copy through a British bookseller. I happily recommend The Book Depository at http://www.bookdepository.co.uk as a very good overseas book dealer, they will ship for <i>free</i> anywhere in the world if you order directly through their on-line site.

Four and a half stars, rounded up to five. Happily recommended.

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Vanessa
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Post by Vanessa » Sat October 4th, 2008, 7:43 am

I shall be reading this book later on this year. Some other book friends and I have all challenged each other to read certain books from our TBR piles via Librarything, and Lords of the White Castle was one of the ones chosen for me. Sounds a bit mad, but it's a good way of whittling down the TBR pile! I've read 11 of my chosen books and have 5 more to go for this year.

I'm really enjoying Shadows and Strongholds, so am looking forward to this one.
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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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Sat October 4th, 2008, 12:20 pm

LOL, Vanessa that's probably the best (and only) way to do it. I thought I was making good progress and then a new discovery or two sends me on a completely different reading path.

I loved Lords of the White Castle, and I always wonder if that's where the Robin Hood legends came from.

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Tanzanite
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Post by Tanzanite » Sat October 4th, 2008, 2:31 pm

I really liked this one - although so far, I haven't read a Chadwick that I didn't like. :)

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JaneConsumer
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Post by JaneConsumer » Sat October 4th, 2008, 8:46 pm

Ditto, Tanzanite. This was my first EC book and I loved it.

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Vanessa
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Currently reading: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favourite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Post by Vanessa » Fri December 12th, 2008, 10:02 am

I've just finished Lords of the White Castle and I loved it. It did have a ring of Robin Hood about it. I did cry at the end! :o I thought it was an excellent follow up to Shadows and Strongholds. Telynor says it all.
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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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Fri December 12th, 2008, 4:48 pm

Thanks Vanessa!
I have to say that 'Lords' is a landmark novel for me because it was my first ever attempt at biographical fiction. When I embarked on it I was thinking 'I don't know if I can do this,' and it was a steep learning curve. By the end though, down to Fulke and his life story, I realised that from now on I was hooked on real characters! :)
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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LCW
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Post by LCW » Fri December 12th, 2008, 7:26 pm

OK, this thread just made up my mind about what to read next. I'll be starting on Lords of the White Castle tonight. It's about time for another Chadwick!! :D
Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them. --Arnold Lobel

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Fri December 12th, 2008, 7:40 pm

[quote=""LCW""]OK, this thread just made up my mind about what to read next. I'll be starting on Lords of the White Castle tonight. It's about time for another Chadwick!! :D [/quote]

You won't be sorry. At least that is until 2 AM and then you might regret it :o :) :D

Darn near unputdownable and I just loved the always evil King John. I might have to pull this one out for a reread soon.

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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Fri December 12th, 2008, 8:31 pm

[quote=""Misfit""]You won't be sorry. At least that is until 2 AM and then you might regret it :o :) :D

Darn near unputdownable and I just loved the always evil King John. I might have to pull this one out for a reread soon.[/quote]

LOL Misfit! I'm the author and I laughed at that one!
On the matter of King John. Do you know, for a while after I read Here Be Dragons, I felt that historians might have dealt him a bum hand, rather like they dealt Richard III. But gradually I've swung back to the negative view. Not so much as a political ruler. I think he was highly intelligent, astute, cunning and in other circumstances would have made a very good king on the admin front. He was often unlucky. If he'd pulled off Bouvines - and he nearly did - things might have been different. But as a person.... ick, yuk, shudder... Even if only half the tales are true, the other half would be enough to condemn him times over. All Medieval kings were cruel, but with John I think it went bone deep and soul-deep. I'd love to talk to SKP about her feelings on the matter.
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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