Sunday, 9 January 2011

A Place Beyond Courage - Elizabeth Chadwick

‘Dex ai! Dex ai le Maréchal!’

That is the powerful battle cry that John Marshall’s troops echo across the fields to the rising of the make-shift gallows for the young William Marshall. It’s rousing, and your heart really goes out to that small boy who is fated to swing. A blend of tense drama and solid feelings resonate throughout the novel, which makes A Place Beyond Courage great.

It is formed as a prequel to The Greatest Knight, one of my favourite Chadwick books. It tells the story of William’s father, John, and his struggles within the court, the civil war, and his home. We are presented with the annoyingly pathetic Aline, and the strong and sexy Sybilla. Chadwick is a master of romance – it is exciting, it is meaningful, and the novel is not all about love – it is fused at every point with accurate research and a love for the medieval period.

I found it incredibly difficult not to read, and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. John’s face gets ruined by molten lead but we learn to look beyond that and into his heart. You are there throughout his life, through war and children. If anyone wants to gain an insight into medieval life, Chadwick is definitely the way to go. She’s very god at developing and moving the plot on, as is proved by the fact that the novel spans 23+ years, and all of that covered in about 500 pages.

However, within all of Chadwick’s characters (I have read about six of her novels now) there are similar qualities. The protagonists are always sexy, young, beautiful, strong. This is the same for Sybilla and John. It is like Chadwick is just re-using characters from her other books but giving them a different name. She also has a tendency to repeat phrases, for example, ‘the ladder fell with its heavy burden of men’ was repeated more than once.

I admire Chadwick’s love for the period and the want to discover the character’s history and really bring to life the stories. She has an amazing blog which she regularly updates about her research into her books.

I would like to read The Greatest Knight again. It is certainly one of my favourites of hers – knights, jousting, and if I were to meet William Marshall in real life, I would fancy the pants off of him. 

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