Top critical review
26 of 33 people found this helpful
a dissenting voice, I'm afraid...
on 23 February 2008
I know everyone else here has raved about this novel but personally I found it trite, simplistic and far too one-dimensional. Reading is always about personal taste, but if you like your historical fiction dense, tense and immaculately written (more Dorothy Dunnett that Philippa Gregory) then I would not recommend this.
All the characters are either perfect (most of all William of whom more later) or villainous with no shading at all. Also the politics of the era are glossed over but the 'romance' element is fairly light so that the story falls between these too elements. The whole issue between Henry II and Eleanor is never really explained: one moment she's Queen, the next she's under practical house arrest but we never get to hear why. This is partly because Chadwick is trying to cram in so much 'history' in terms of chronology (there are frequent gaps of 2-3 years between chapters) that the story never really takes on any life.
William is so perfect that he's dull! He's 18 when we meet him, perfectly chivalrous, the perfect knight/warrior already, loves everyone, is adored by almost everyone he meets and hated by the few others who don't adore him - a paragon of such virtue that he cannot gain either my interest or my attention. He's also incredibly out of touch with the actual cultural ideas and mores of his time e.g. he eschews prostitutes, he treats all his social inferiors as his complete equals, he refuses to treat woman as either sexual objects or breeding mares and believes in a marriage of true love and equality etc etc - I'm sorry but this is female Mills & Boon type fantasy written in extremely pedestrian and cliche-ridden language. I'm shocked that other reviewers can commend Chadwick's historical research and sense of history with this depiction (Ok, I realise she thinks that a Marshal who actually is complicit with the values of his time might be unsympathetic to a contemporary audience but surely 'historical' fiction needs to create an atmosphere that takes in different thought patterns and cultural values?)
I'm sorry to be so negative as I was really looking forward to reading this book especially after all the other positive reviews, but I was so, so disappointed.