This is a prequel of sorts to The Greatest Knight, and is the story of John FitzGilbert, the father of William Marshal. The story takes place amidst the backdrop of England's civil war between Henry's daughter Matilda and her cousin Stephen who usurped her crown, as John tries to juggle his perilous position between the two rivals for the crown.
John's first marriage to Aline (the best he could make at the time in his position) does not fare well as she is weak of mind as well as spirit, and when he chooses to side with Matilda he makes a more advantageous marriage with Sybilla, who bears John several children including William. The characterization of John started from a cat that always lands on his feet to a loving husband and father, facing the most difficult decision of his life. The author did a marvelous job of bringing John, Aline and Sybilla to life, and most especially the young William. I was totally entranced at the way William was portrayed, from his exuberant first word to his innocent knowledge of the danger he was in whilst being held hostage by King Stephen.
While this is not a page turning, sit on the edge of your seat, action filled novel, I was thoroughly entertained throughout. As always with Chadwick's books, the way she brings the medieval period to life in such a graceful and effortless way, be it the sights, sounds, smells, food, clothes and battles is just awesome. As quoted on some of her book jackets, the next best thing to time travel. Five stars.