Saturday, December 31, 2011

THE GREATEST KNIGHT by Elizabeth Chadwick ✰✰✰✰

Eleanor of Aquitaine is without a doubt one of my favorite women from history, so this story, in which she plays a supporting role, was made for my enjoyment.  The story centers around the life of William Marshall, who was in turns a knight in the service of Eleanor’s husband, King Henry II of England, her son Young King Henry, and her son Richard.
From an historical standpoint, I could find no fault with this tale.  The lengthy author’s note at the end of the book lays out exactly where she took liberties and where she stayed in line with known fact; I love a good author’s note in a work of historical fiction.  I found her portrayal of Richard the Lionheart very intriguing; where he is usually portrayed as a jovial, well-loved man, Chadwick’s Richard is a much more arrogant, harsh individual.  A bit unsettling, it took me a while to accept her portrait and move forward-I am not sure I buy into her portrayal of him, and I look forward to reading more books in the series and seeing how his character develops.
The writing, on the other hand, was not as good as I had hoped for.  I felt that the dialog was a bit stilted at times, but my biggest complaint was the repetitive use of certain descriptive phases: William frequently felt “prickles” down his spine and “heavy” boots due to fatigue, for a couple of examples.  On the positive side, the story moved at a brisk pace, was easy to follow despite shifting alliances of its many characters, and was pure enjoyment to read.
While the writing does not even approach that of say, Sharon Kay Penman, this is good story telling, and I highly recommend it for any historical fiction readers interested in the time and place.

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