The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion are two of the best historical fiction novels that I have ever read. Elizabeth Chadwick vividly brings William Marshal and his wife Isabelle de Claire to life with beautiful and detailed prose. So vividly, that I have been having jousting and related dreams for the past few weeks!
The Scarlet Lion is a stand-alone second novel detailing the later half of William Marshal’s life. William Marshal used his great skills as a knight as well as his honesty and integrity to gain power and the hand of Isabelle de Claire, a very wealthy heiress. At the beginning of The Scarlet Lion, William and Isabelle are happily married and busy multiplying their family. William has not settled down as a country squire, he is always at the beck and call of King Richard helping out and leading the way as needed.
Tragedy strikes when King Richard suddenly dies, and his brother, King John takes over. Honor compels William to serve England’s King, even though King John does not rule with integrity or honor himself. The Marshal family faces many perils, including King John taking the two eldest sons, William and Richard, as hostages. These perils cause friction between William and Isabelle as they try to keep their power and their family intact.
Unlike The Greatest Knight, The Scarlet Lion focuses a lot on Isabelle and the Marshall children. I liked the new approach as William is now a family man. Isabelle is a very strong heroine in a time when women did not have a lot of power. I loved reading about her and how she was able to rule without William at home.
The battle sequences in The Scarlet Lion were thrilling from the assault on the castle at Milli at the start of the book to the Battle of Lincoln at the end of the book. I was riveted and loved the detail. The historical detail throughout the book was intriguing. It was interesting to me to see how much power the Catholic Church influenced over nations at that point in time.
I also loved the romance. William and Isabelle’s love faces trials, but they are able to weather the storm and find their love growing stronger. I also love the realization of the passage of time. One of my favorite quotes is Isabelle thinking, “The years had flown with the swiftness of summer swallows on the wing.”
Overall, The Scarlet Lion is a fantastic novel. This is great historical fiction; wonderful characters, fascinating history, and detailed beautiful writing. I feel like I know William and Isabelle quite well now and only wish I could read more about them or their family!
If you would like to learn more about The Scarlet Lion and/or Elizabeth Chadwick, please stop by my blog on March 2nd when I will be interviewing Elizabeth Chadwick!
Book Source: Advanced Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thanks!