As someone who greatly enjoys reading about the medieval period, I had been aware of Elizabeth Chadwick’s books for some time but had never been able to get my hands on any due to them not being readily available in the US. I was therefore very happy to see The Greatest Knight for free on the kindle. I really enjoyed it in spite of a rather slow start and will definitely be purchasing more of her books, beginning with The Scarlet Lion which continues the story of William Marshal.
I did find the beginning to be a bit slow, but it picked up quickly for me once William comes into the service of the Young King Henry. I wish we had seen a bit more of his childhood, considering the incident with King Stephen which is highly dramatic and would have made for a more complete character portrait. I appreciate that Chadwick follows history closely and doesn’t change things around for the sake of her story. I thought all the characters were very well drawn, particularly the royal family, although William and his wife were a bit too good to be true. Eleanor of Aquitaine is probably my favorite historical personage of all time and I was not disappointed in her portrayal at all. She and Henry and their children all felt like real living and breathing people. I did find myself missing several characters after they exited stage left, such as Marguerite the Young Queen and William’s ward Heloise, but it makes sense that since this is William’s story they weren’t seen again. The period setting was very well portrayed and I got a real feel for life in the middle ages. I was a bit worried about how “romancy” the book would be, but I needn’t have worried. There is romance of course, but it was all well done with nary a heaving bosom in sight. Altogether this was a very enjoyable read with great historical details and great supporting characters.