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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Review: Shadows and Strongholds

Author: Elizabeth Chadwick
Genre: Historical fiction

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:

A medieval tale of pride and strife, of coming-of-age in a world where chivalry is a luxury seldom afforded, especially by men of power. England, 1148---ten-year-old Brunin FitzWarin is an awkward misfit in his own family. A quiet child, he is tormented by his brothers and loathed by his powerful and autocratic grandmother. In an attempt to encourage Brunin’s development, his father sends him to be fostered in the household of Joscelin de Dinan, Lord of Ludlow. Here Brunin will learn knightly arts, but before he can succeed, he must overcome the deep-seated doubts that hold him back. Hawise, the youngest daughter of Lord Joscelin, soon forms a strong friendship with Brunin.

Family loyalties mean that her father, with the young Brunin as his squire, must aid Prince Henry of Anjou in his battle with King Stephen for the English crown. Meanwhile, Ludlow itself comes under threat from Joscelin’s rival, Gilbert de Lacy. As the war for the crown rages, and de Lacy becomes more assertive in his claims for Ludlow, Brunin and Hawise are drawn into each other’s arms. Now Brunin must defeat the shadows of his childhood and put to use all that he has learned. As the pressure on Ludlow intensifies and a new Welsh threat emerges against his own family’s lands, Brunin must confront the future head on, or fail on all counts....

My Thoughts:

Chadwick presents two medieval families that are allies and yet drastically different. The FitzWarins are tough, brutal, domineering, and a bit mean spirited. Where as the de Dinans are nurturing, loving, happy, and a bit more progressive or free thinking. The contrast between the two is very well written and helps to present the key points in the story. You can just imagine the characters uttering their lines, especially Brunin's mean Grandmother.

The de Dinans are almost too good to be true. They allow their daughters to have a say in their marriages and actually love one another quite openly. Quite a rarity in medieval times.

With regards to the story, it is a beautifully told medieval story. There are just enough battles without becoming bored. They are succinctly depicted as needed. Castle life is portrayed well also, and the interactions between family members and servants are described seamlessly within the story. Chadwick knows her stuff. You would think she lived during medieval times because her descriptions are so accurate. Her research is impeccable.

This book was an interesting read, but not what I was expecting when I picked it up. I assumed there would be more romance than there was. It is more of a medieval story with some romance thrown in along the way. The story itself is interesting and moves along quickly. The book is quite thick, however there are some suspenseful moments sprinkled in, so that you progress through the book more quickly than you realize.

All in all it's a nice read, but as I said, not quite what I was expecting. But that will certainly not deter me from trying another of Chadwick's medieval stories.

My Rating: 3.75/5


Passages to the Past said...

I haven't gotten to this one yet, but I just finished A Place Beyond Courage last night and it was fabulous! I love Chadwick - and you are so right about her descriptions. I've come to the conclusion that she has some time travel machine she's not telling us about!

The Bookworm said...

what a gorgeous bookcover. I do like historicals. great review! too bad there wanst more romance in this book.

Jenny Girl said...

Naida: me too! I was a little disappointed with the wee bit of romance, but now I know for next time.

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