Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick

Once again, Elizabeth Chadwick has pulled me into the thirteenth century, engulfing me with the sights, sounds, and events of the tumultuous period when John was King and the Marshals and Bigods had to walk a thin line in order to keep their families safe and protect their very lives. To Defy a King is a masterpiece, rich in characters and all the details that bring the past vividly to life.

The story centers around headstrong Mahelt Marshal, favorite daughter of William Marshal (featured in The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion). Mahelt's marriage to Hugh Bigod, son of Roger Bigod (For the King's Favor/The Time of Singing) does little to bring the teen to heel and soon she has her new husband captivated, even as she continually rubs her father by marriage the wrong way. Mahelt is no shrinking violet, sitting back watching events unfold; she is impetuous, outspoken, and determined, though mindful of her duties as a wife of a powerful family. Her emotions are always close to the surface and she can barely contain her revulsion and anger with King John, even as she realizes that rebelling could cause her family to lose all.

The themes of family and honour are repeated throughout To Defy a King; it is easy to see that Chadwick wants us to understand that these were the driving forces behind the lives of those under the thumb of John's erratic, often cruel, behavior. Mahelt herself is written with such fervor that her spirit literally leaps off the pages; I could feel her anguish over the predictaments her blood family faced while being torn over her love for her husband. There is so much action, both large and small, throughout this novel that is almost impossible to read it quickly, and really, who would want to?

To Defy a King is tightly written, with differing points of view to shed light on character motivations and push the story along. The characterizations are spot on, making the characters real enough to show their flaws; the conversations pull you further into the lives of these people who lived so long ago. I felt as though I were present in their daily lives and I wanted to savour that feeling so much that I purposely dragged out the finishing of the book. Chadwick is head and shoulders above all historical writers out there today, and To Defy a King just proves that her skills are growing. Her fan base should grow as well because this is a book that will defy you to let it go.



Marg said...

This book made it onto my list of favourite reads for last year! Can't wait for the next one, although to be fair I do say that about every new Chadwick book I read!

Teddy Rose said...

I am so looking forward to reading this one. I'm planning to read it late in Feb. because I got my copy from Sourcebooks and they ask us to hold off on reviews until then. For books I think I'm going to really like, I like to post my review right after I read it, when possible.