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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Passion and rebellion on the road to Magna Carta
To Defy A King tells the story of Mahelt Marshal, favourite daughter of the powerful William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. At fourteen Mahelt is married to Hugh, eldest son of Roger and Ida Bigod. Hugh's half-brother is William of Salisbury (known as William Longespee), and his half-brother is King John. The book is all about divided loyalties: Hugh and Longespee have an...
Published on 21 May 2010 by Miss Moppet

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not her best
To Defy a King is the story of Mahelt Marshal, eldest daughter of the famous William Marshal--who appears as the main character in two of Chadwick's previous novels, and a minor character in a handful of others. As the oldest daughter of one of the most famous men in England, Mahelt married Hugh Bigod. The novel covers a period of about ten years, from Mahelt's marriage...
Published on 27 Aug 2010 by Ellis Bell


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Passion and rebellion on the road to Magna Carta, 21 May 2010
This review is from: To Defy A King (William Marshal) (Hardcover)
To Defy A King tells the story of Mahelt Marshal, favourite daughter of the powerful William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. At fourteen Mahelt is married to Hugh, eldest son of Roger and Ida Bigod. Hugh's half-brother is William of Salisbury (known as William Longespee), and his half-brother is King John. The book is all about divided loyalties: Hugh and Longespee have an uneasy relationship and Mahelt finds herself caught between the family she was born into and the one she married into. As the country descends into civil war, Hugh and Mahelt find themselves on the opposite side to Longespee and to Mahelt's beloved father.

I wasn't sure at first how much I would like Mahelt, who is very headstrong, a little spoiled and begins the book with a lot of growing up to do. But while she does have the occasional Fallon Carrington moment, once she married Hugh I found myself totally on her side. A paradox of historical fiction is that while readers usually prefer feisty heroines, in the past assertiveness was not appreciated in women and strong-willed females usually suffered for their lack of pliability. While Mahelt develops into a very appealing heroine, she pays the price for her rebelliousness more than once.

The theme of rebellion comes to the fore in the years leading up to Magna Carta, as the king's relationship with his barons steadily deteriorates. While this novel is written from the point of view of the barons driven to breaking point by King John's abuse of his power, Elizabeth Chadwick brings balance to the narrative by allowing us to glimpse John's point of view. My favourite character was Longespee, who is caught between his identification with his royal heritage, his loyalty to John and the connection he feels to his Bigod relatives. Longespee can't manage to break free from his rivalry with Hugh, and this leads him into some misbehaviour, so I was glad that he eventually gets the opportunity to redeem himself.

According to the author interview at the back of the book, this novel went through six drafts: as a result, the text is as smooth and rich as hot chocolate, and just as delicious. Enjoy!
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80 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could not put it down, 1 May 2010
By 
Misfit (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: To Defy A King (William Marshal) (Hardcover)
Although that's pretty much standard for me with this author's books. To Defy a King is the story of Mahelt, the eldest and most beloved daughter of my favorite hunk in history, William Marshal. Preparing an extended trip to get their lands in Ireland under control, Mahelt's parents are anxious to see her married before he leaves and to that end she is betrothed to Hugh Bigod, the son of Roger Bigod the powerful Earl of Norfolk. While still too young for the marriage bed, Mahelt and Hugh are married and she joins the Bigods at Framlingham Castle, although the very-independent-minded Mahelt and set-in-his-ways Roger don't always see eye to eye.

When Mahelt reaches her fifteenth birthday she and Hugh are able to consummate their marriage and begin building a family together, but their happiness is ultimately threatened by the escalating tensions between King John and his barons. Hugh also has a lot of tension of his own to deal with from his half-brother William Longespée, who is quite full of himself and his relationship to the King (he is John's half-brother through his mother Ida see more about that in The Time of Singing);

"...although for Longespée attendance on John was a validation of his royal blood and an opportunity to pose in fine clothes."

The conflicts finally lead to open revolt against the King and Mahelt finds herself torn between loyalty to the Bigods who want to oust John and her father who swore fealty to John and is honor bound to keep it. And what of her beloved brothers who have been held hostage for years by John to ensure her father's loyalty?

"Do not talk to me of God. I have been supping with the Devil...I thought I had a long enough spoon, but I was wrong."

Can Hugh keep his wife and children safe from John's clutches? Can Framlingham Castle withstand the King's army? Sorry, but that's all I'm going to tell you - read it for yourself. While the first half of the book might not be fast paced enough for some readers, I really enjoyed it and had a hard time putting it down. I loved watching the budding relationship between Hugh and Mahelt grow into a strong, loving marriage, as well as Hugh's somewhat stormy relationship with his half-brother William Longespée. As for Hugh? I'm in love again....

One of Chadwick's greatest strengths is the way she effortlessly brings the medieval period and mindset to life - from the food, clothing, sights, sounds etc. and this latest one is no disappointment. A big thumbs up on the author's notes at the end as well, I for one appreciate knowing what was real, what was surmised for the sake of the story as well as how ongoing research has affected what she's written in her previous books on the Marshal and Bigod families. 5/5 stars and a must for Chadwick fans.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `You have to know when to seize the advantage and when to yield.', 23 Jun 2010
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: To Defy A King (William Marshal) (Hardcover)
Mahelt Marshal is the eldest daughter of William Marshal, one of the most respected and influential knights in England. During King John's turbulent reign, William Marshal is suspected of treachery and with two sons being held hostage he seeks to make an advantageous marriage for his daughter. A marriage to Hugh Bigod, the son of Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk is arranged, and Mahelt moves to Framlingham to live with her new family.

This is Mahelt's story during the period from January 1204 to September 1217. It is the story of a proud Marshal daughter growing into a young woman and realising that a Bigod wife is sometimes required to have different allegiances than a Marshal daughter. In the meantime, the reign of King John is creating political and religious upheaval, and both the Marshals and the Bigods are in danger. Mahelt and Hugh's marriage is also under threat as allegiances and loyalties are challenged.

I enjoyed this novel. Ms Chadwick brings medieval England to life by deftly recreating the physical world and the mindsets of the period. This makes it easier for the 21st century reader to appreciate why the 13th characters behave the way they do.

While this novel can be read as a standalone, I'd recommend reading Ms Chadwick's other novels about the Marshal (The Greatest Knight; The Scarlet Lion; A Place Beyond Courage) and Bigod (The Time of Singing) families first.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not her best, 27 Aug 2010
This review is from: To Defy A King (William Marshal) (Hardcover)
To Defy a King is the story of Mahelt Marshal, eldest daughter of the famous William Marshal--who appears as the main character in two of Chadwick's previous novels, and a minor character in a handful of others. As the oldest daughter of one of the most famous men in England, Mahelt married Hugh Bigod. The novel covers a period of about ten years, from Mahelt's marriage to Hugh up through the Magna Carta.

I do love Elizabeth Chadwick's novels; her writing really takes her reader back in time. But for some reason, I just didn't love this one quite as much. Maybe because there's so much less known about Mahelt than about her father, her character seems a lot sketchier here. Still, I thought Chadwick did a wonderful job of trying to ring her and Hugh to life. Hahelt matures as a character, but it's too abrupt; at one point she's running off to meet her brother in secret, the next she's a responsible young chatelaine. Maybe having children made her more mature and responsible, but it happened too suddenly for me.

Another frequent theme that pops up in the novel is loyalty; the Bigods and Marshals were on different sides of the King John conflict. Who should Mahelt side with: the family she was born into or the side that her adoptive family is on? Like a previous reviewer, I thought that Chadwick should have focused more on the internal struggle that Mahelt faces--and there's a lot of opportunity to deal with the topic in this novel.

Still, as I've said before, Chadwick really knows how to get her reader into the mindset of her medieval characters. Her research is always detailed, and her descriptions of the time and place in which her novels are set are always absorbing. I think there's a lot more promise for this book--but if you're new to Elizabeth Chadwick's novels, I'd start with her books on Mahelt's father, instead--The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion. To Defy a King assumes that the reader knows about William Marshal, so his involvement in this story is more peripheral. The ending of the novel is a bit open-ended, which makes me think that a sequel may one day be in the works.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly entertaining, 28 Mar 2011
This review is from: To Defy A King (William Marshal) (Hardcover)
To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick deserves the success it has, including the recent RNA award for best historical fiction.
As always Elizabeth Chadwick weaves an intriguing plot with well drawn characters that leap from the page and suck you into their world. The author's medieval research is deep and clear, allowing you to feel like you are in each scene.
I especially admire how EC creates her characters, especially Mahelt and Hugh as likeable and strong, yet also very human with flaws and weakness so they aren't perfect and instead are very natural and enjoyable to know.
A thoroughly wonderful story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Mahelt!, 12 Jan 2011
By 
Tamela Mccann "taminator40" (Nashville, TN USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: To Defy A King (William Marshal) (Hardcover)
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Once again, excellent historical fiction!, 23 May 2010
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This review is from: To Defy A King (William Marshal) (Hardcover)
As usual, Chadwick manages to make the lives of these people from centuries past come alive again. Her characterizations, realistic dialogue, and fascinating plot makes for a book I could not put down. My one quibble was a section towards the end with Louis of France that I thought could have been edited a bit. But that does not detract from the pleasure I got while reading this book! Highly recommended!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Defy a King, 27 July 2010
This review is from: To Defy A King (William Marshal) (Hardcover)
I have read all of Elizabeth Chadwick's other titles and I wasn't disappointed in To Defy a King. Some of the characters are revisited that took the headlines in her books about William Marshall and I found that well done. The character writing and historical detail are excellent as always and reinforced my belief that King John was a nasty piece of work! It was interesting to read about the behind the scene wranglings and as always, well done and well researched. Ms Chadwick always achieves to bring her characters to life and make you beleive that you are looking in on their experiences as living breathing people. You could read this book on its own, but the readers who have read the Greatest Knight and the Scarlet Lion will probably have a bit of a head start on an in sight to some of the characters. A great read and I can't wait for the next book. Well done Elizabeth Chadwick.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To Defy A King, 27 July 2013
By 
Isis (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Elizabeth Chadwick's style of writing is still as skilled as ever - detailed, evocative, smart, transporting, and fluid. It's great, it's so easy with her books to start reading, and reading, and reading. I loved the understanding Chadwick has of the times and social mores about which she writes, too. Mahelt and her father in law have two different ways of thinking and attitudes about what is and isn't appropriate, and for a modern reader the temptation is to side with whoever expresses the sentiments closest to our own - in this case, Mahelt, whose independent attitude comes naturally to most of us, in a modern western society where individuality is encouraged, and personal independence and freedom prized. Thankfully, Chadwick resists judging the opposing point of view put forwards by Mahelt's father in law, and instead shows, rather than tells, over time, why his emphasis on collective family, duty, and propriety is important in the context of the early medieval world. Also, as ever, I greatly appreciate Chadwick's author's notes and her frank discussions of what is fiction and what is fact in the novel.

The not so good: I'm kind of tired of the trope in medieval historical fiction of the independent-woman-with-enlightened-husband-in-medieval-times, and the arranged-marriage-rocky-start-comes-good. Maybe it's just me. This is the fourth book I've read in a row that has this trope. After that many one after another it can start to feel a little cookie-cutter, you know, no matter how much I adore reading about strong female characters. Another thing was that King John was a touch one-note - a persistent lech and I honestly can't think of any redeeming qualities that he shows in the story whatsoever. Even though To Defy A King is set in the context of rebellion against the king, outside events are not really explained unless they directly impact on the Bigods or the Marshals, and the focus remains on Mahelt and Hugh's relationship. Apparently that's because all that is explored in The Scarlet Lion. And the sense that I got when I read Lady of the Engish, that Chadwick skirts around battles, began to solidify here. It's the baron's rebellion, why no battles? Maybe it's all in The Scarlet Lion. But a novel should be able to stand on it's own as an independent whole.

These were just niggly things that meant I didn't quite enjoy To Defy A King as much as Lady of the English, but it's still a good read, and I'd recommend it - strong characters, great attention to detail, strong writing, immersive environment - all in all thumbs up from me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great read, 17 Jan 2013
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Another great read from Elizabeth Chadwick. This is fiction that takes you to the period with her detailed descriptions. It also sends me to the history books for mote information about the mediaeval period, a truly fascinating time in our history.
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To Defy A King (William Marshal) by Elizabeth Chadwick (Hardcover - 6 May 2010)
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