Monday, April 1, 2013

Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick

I didn’t think I could love a historical hero as much as I love William Marshall, the hero of Chadwick’s The Greatest Knight, but Elizabeth Chadwick herself has proven me wrong. Brunin (Fulke) Fitzwarin is an outcast in his own home during the middle ages. Taking after his mercenary grandfather, he is lean and dark in a family of stout fair hair individuals. He is also branded a coward after an incident in a marketplace. Sent out as a squire to Joscelin the Lord of Ludlow Castle, Brunin finds a friend in Joscelin’s youngest tom-boy daughter, Hawise. Brunin also discovers how to be a great fighter and a compassionate man as he grows up as Joscelin’s ward.

Growing up is only half the battle as once Brunin reaches the age to start thinking about his inheritance as the heir of Whittington and Alberbury castles, he finds them broiled in a dispute. His youth was spent during the endless wars of King Stephen and Empress Matilda fighting for the English thrown. As he reaches maturity, Matilda’s son Henry has taken the thrown as Henry II. As both Brunin’s father and Lord Joscelin supported Henry, this is considered a positive. Unfortunately other forces believe that they should be the lords of Whittington and Ludlow and are willing to take it by force. Love and treachery are definitely the major themes of this novel.

I loved Brunin the sensitive, but skilled fighter. The striking picture on the front of this novel helped as well. I also loved Hawise. She was not a typical maiden of the time, but was strong willed and willing to go head to head with Brunin. Joscelin was a kind, compassionate, and powerful lord and I also loved his fierce lady, Sybilla. The villains were also fierce, some were written so compassionately, I felt sorry for them. I can’t say more and ruin the plot!

Chadwick has a gift and is a superb historical fiction writer. Her characters and scenes come alive and I think of them long after I have finished one of her books. She uses vast historical research as well as reenactments to write her novels. I believe that is why one feels that you are there in the time and place. Chadwick’s novels are more than a good read, they are an experience.

Shadows and Strongholds is the prequel to her novel, Lords of the White Castle which is the “story of medieval outlaw Fulke Fitzwarin and his endeavors to have his family lands restored.” I really want to read this and looked it up on amazon. Unfortunately it is not currently in print in the U.S. I hope that Sourcebooks publishes it soon – I really want to know the rest of the story of Brunin and Hawise.

Overall, Shadows and Strongholds is another superb novel by Elizabeth Chadwick. I’ve read a lot of good books lately, but this book reigns supreme over them all. I’ve been watching Game of Thrones a lot lately. If you are a fan of Game of Thrones, I would highly recommend Shadows and Strongholds or any Elizabeth Chadwick novel. History is just as riveting as fiction, although there are less white walkers and dragons.

Source: A review copy from Sourcebooks – Thanks!


  1. I'm glad this one is good. I want to read it too.

  2. I've never read anything by this author, but I'm intrigued and I like series, so maybe I'll look for it.

  3. This is the last EC book that I haven't yet read. I started it a few weeks ago but I am not ready to have nothing new so I might save it to read until just before her new book comes out in June!

  4. She has a new book in June? Sign me up! Every book I've read by Elizabeth Chadwick so far has been fastastic and one of my favorite books of the year. If you haven't read her yet, I highly recommend picking up one of her books.

    1. The first book in her trilogy about Eleanor of Aquitaine comes out in the UK in June!

  5. I'm too jealous Marg. I've been reading the daily lines from the Eleanor of Aquitaine book on Facebook and enjoying them - I am really looking forward to this trilogy. I wonder when it will be published in the U.S.?