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on 18 August 2004
This is a medieval tale of Brunin FitzWarin and Hawise de Dinan. It begins in England, 1148 and ten year old Brunin is a misfit in his own family. He is a quiet child and is tormented by his brothers and is detested by his own paternal grandmother, Mellette. His beautiful mother, Eve, is a shy, quiet woman who doesn't have the mettle to stand up to her mother-in-law or her domineering husband, Fulke FitzWarin and therefore is incapable of protecting herself, let alone her oldest son.
Brunin's father decides that the boy needs encouragement to fully develop and sends him to be fostered in the household of his friend, Joscelin de Dinan, Lord of Ludlow. Brunin will learn the knightly arts but he must also learn to overcome his own self-doubts.
There he meets Hawise, the youngest daughter of Lord Joscelin and they form a friendship while growing up together at Ludlow. He learns to fight with Lord Joscelin, and his father for Henry of Anjou for Henry's crown against King Stephen. However, in the background, rival threats against Ludlow and Whittington become more prevalent and additional battles must be fought.
This is an extremely well-written book and delves deep into the personalities of the main characters, especially Brunin and Hawise. I felt their emotions so strongly it was almost akin to being in their shoes. A veritable page turner! I couldn't stop and was sad to see it end! Another winner for author Elizabeth Chadwick and anyone who reads her novels!
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on 30 December 2005
This was my first experience of Elizabeth Chadwick's books. It combined a super mix of historic detail, great characterisation and romance. What more could a girl ask for on a cold night in November. The fact I couldn't put this book down prompted me to buy as many of Ms Chadwick's back catologue as I could lay my hands on and I have to say I haven't been disappointed by anything I've read and look forward to reading more of her wonderful stories in the future.
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on 3 October 2005
Ms Chadwick has taken tantalising details from a very poorly documented historical period and developed them into a credible and generally believable adventure story. I have always felt that this famous story, centred on one of the most evocative and romantic of English castles (still largely intact), would make a marvellous film if treated with sensitivity. I am amazed at Chadwick's ability to weave a most interesting plot whilst incorporating many of the known facts into the novel and scenario. Despite the passage of 850 years, you can still realistically access many of the sites mentioned in the text. Who can visit the marvellous round chapel in the inner bailey of the castle, as an example, and not feel intensely moved? If I have a slight problem it is with the character of Jocelin de Dinan. As a mercenary originally it is difficult to believe he would be quite as easy going in real life. On the other hand the characterisation of Marion is pretty convincing. This is a book I could not put down! Highly recommended.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 October 2007
This book is the story of Fulke "Brunin" Fitzwarin, taking him from childhood to his manhood. As a young boy, Brunin withdraws into himself to avoid the pain from his domineering overbearing grandmother, and his father sends him to train as a squire to Joscelin de Dinan. As Brunin blossoms under Joscelin's care, he eventually becomes a strong young man and a knight to be reckoned with, and he learns to deal with the shadows of his youth and banish them forever.

Brunin and Joselin's daughter Hawise began as childhood friends growing up together, to becoming man and wife, while trouble and conspiracies threaten their happiness. 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.
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on 24 October 2008
Lovely, lovely book BUT, I have to stop living in the 12th. and 13th. centuries (although, as things as they are, maybe I should stay there!).
This is another excellent book from Ms. Chadwick, which makes you really believe you are actually there with the wonderful, well rounded characters.
This one was written after the 'Lords of the White Castle' but actually precedes it in time, nevertheless, that does not matter as you are actually taken back to see what caused the problems in the first place.
Great historical novel writing at its very best.
As I said previously I have to stop this, as, along with Sharon Kay Penman ( whose great books I have read and re-read) Elizabeth Chadwick is keeping me trapped in the remote past, but, do I care? - no, I don't; I love their books. I am sure you will too.
I have just ordered another one - I'm totally addicted.
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on 5 August 2005
Having read a number of Ms Chadwick's novels, I've come to think of this one as her best to date. It is the gripping story about Fulke 'Brunin' FitzWarin in his younger years and her writing style is as always captivating from the start.
Little Brunin first comes across as an introvert boy who'd rather stay out of trouble than being confronted by dangers. A bad experience in childhood has its effect way into his adolescent years. He is sent by his despairing father as a squire to Joscelin de Dinan, ally and friend of the WitzWarin family. Bit by bit, the de Dinan family, and especially headstrong Hawise, second daughter, and naive, besotted Marion, an orphan adopted by the family, manage to bring little Brunin out of his shell. He slowly grows in confidence over the years but it takes a long time - and an unexpected attack on the de Dinan family seat, Ludlow Castle - for him to overcome his fears and fight not just for his own destiny, but also for his benefactor's life. During all this, a subtle love story emerges between Brunin and Hawise that is sealed with a wedding - happily approved by both families. However, undercurrents exist as Marion's admiration turns into destructive jealousy. Feeling rejected as she wasn't chosen to be Brunin's bride, Marion reverts to treason... with dire consequences for all!
Ms Chadwick's style of bringing wit and a dry sense of humour into dramatic storylines always manages to show the characters as human, fallible, naive, determined and strong as we all can be - and not as superheroes. Unputdownable and highly recommended!!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 July 2015
The perfect companion for all historical fiction enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

Of kings and crowns and ambitions colliding. The tale of Brunin and Hawise is set at the time of Henry II's battle for the English throne. Here are lords, mercenary and hereditary, gambling and winning yet losing to a master manipulator, Henry himself.
A story of times when marriages were bargaining chips, and women but pawns on the chess board of the grand game of ownership. Chadwick's sense of the medieval period is a dramatic and emotional backdrop to a story painted vibrantly with words such that the actions of all players ring powerfully true.

Land and inheritance is the crux around which the story swirls. This is a pageant, alive with strong, believable characters--Brunin who is misunderstood, judged and found wanting by many, and Hawise, who is gloriously wild and free, whose personality leaps from the page. Then there's Marion who is damaged and brittle, and who deceives herself so badly. Even the vignette of Beckett is instantaneously vivid.
Battles and personality confrontations make Shadows and Strongholds a palpable read of dark and dangerous times, lightened by love, and colorfully presented by a masterful pen. Bravo!

As a note, my perceptions of the historical political landscape at this time have been more informed by watching the series', She-Wolves: England's Early Queens with Dr. Helen Castor, and The Monarchy with David Starkey.
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on 20 April 2013
My time travelling machine is still under construction and the complicated physics involved in transporting matter has thwarted me somewhat. Elizabeth Chadwick however has made it possible to visit the 12th century with just a few bits of paper, some ink and a great flair for writing long dead characters. I could smell, taste, see, hear and feel all aspects of life that she described and as always made friends and enemies with some fantastic people of that time. The juxtaposition of the FitzWarin and de Dinan style of parenting was fascinating and it was great to see the central characters Hawise and Brunin evolve as they were exposed to each others families and lives. As always with EC novels I felt I learnt a little more about history, the battles and politics that scarred this era and have been compelled to read more source materials the author has listed in her notes. If you want to gallop on war weary horses, wander through marketplaces selling all manner of wares, discover ancient cures and medicines, dress yourself in brightly embroidered silks, eat oat cakes and sup on watered wine this book is for you.
As an aside I can see how many mother in law jokes may have originated from anyone with contact with Mellette Fitzwarin, she was a piece of work!
My mum of the year nomination would certainly have gone to Sybilla de Dinan.
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VINE VOICEon 11 August 2009
Brunin FitzWarin, ten years old, feels like an embarrassment to his family. His grandmother is domineering, his father is never satisfied, and his mother cries often. At a fair, he runs into two older boys, enemies of his father, who beat him mercilessly. As a result, Brunin is sent to be squired at the castle of his father's best friend, Joscelin de Dinan of Ludlow. There he meets Joscelin's daughter Hawise, who soon befriends him and helps him live a little outside the shadow of his family. As Brunin grows up, he must find confidence in himself, love with Hawise, and help Henry II to take the English throne.

Elizabeth Chadwick is a fantastic author and I don't know why I don't read more of her books. This is another one of my oldest TBR reads and it's a shame that I let it sit so long. I was immediately drawn into the 12th century to live with these characters in their world. Those characters are truly wonderful. I loved Hawise and both her tomboyish ways as a child and her path towards maturity as a responsible, loving woman. Brunin was a more challenging character; in many ways he has to fight his way to favor both in the book and for the reader. Towards the middle, it becomes easier to feel for him. The timescale of the book over a long period of years suited the characters' development particularly well, too; it takes us through enough of their lives that we can really get to know them and become interested in the outcome of their stories.

Chadwick has also evoked the period in history brilliantly. The battles are exciting, the behavior of the characters is right in line, and the political drama is played out on a personal scale. Her language is pitch perfect. She uses modern English without any colloqualisms (not any that I spotted) but with medieval words for clothes and objects which we would no longer recognize. All of it is very well done and makes it easy to sink into the world while not forgetting that this is meant to be set 900 or so years ago.

There is quite obviously romance in this book, but it's one facet among many and feels very natural. The characters deal with family issues, loyalty, illness, unfair and arbitrary laws, and even aging. The outcome of the novel is never assured; the plot moves fairly quickly and the reader is not sure whether there will be a happy ending or not. There is suspense going on at times as well; I know I found myself racing through the pages to make sure that certain characters lived.

There is something here for everyone. Despite its length, it was also a quick read; it's very easy to get swept away in this historical saga. I'd highly recommend it and I'm really looking forward to my next read by Elizabeth Chadwick.
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on 19 March 2006
I've thoroughly enjoyed all of the novels I've read so far by Elizabeth Chadwick.
She can easily transport me to medieval England from the first page.
Her characters are engaging, her plots intriguing. She casts a magical spell for the reader, who becomes loathed to read the last page knowing they are finished and the story is no more.
Avid medieval mainstream readers shouldn't miss this one!
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