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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Review: Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick


Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick
ARC, E-book (Kindle), 544 pages
Sourcebooks Landmark
March 5, 2013

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received for review consideration from publisher

“A medieval tale of pride and strife, of coming-of-age in a world where chivalry is a luxury seldom afforded, especially by men of power.

England, 1148---ten-year-old Brunin FitzWarin is an awkward misfit in his own family. A quiet child, he is tormented by his brothers and loathed by his powerful and autocratic grandmother. In an attempt to encourage Brunin’s development, his father sends him to be fostered in the household of Joscelin de Dinan, Lord of Ludlow. Here Brunin will learn knightly arts, but before he can succeed, he must overcome the deep-seated doubts that hold him back.

Hawise, the youngest daughter of Lord Joscelin, soon forms a strong friendship with Brunin. Family loyalties mean that her father, with the young Brunin as his squire, must aid Prince Henry of Anjou in his battle with King Stephen for the English crown. Meanwhile, Ludlow itself comes under threat from Joscelin’s rival, Gilbert de Lacy. As the war for the crown rages, and de Lacy becomes more assertive in his claims for Ludlow, Brunin and Hawise are drawn into each other’s arms.

Now Brunin must defeat the shadows of his childhood and put to use all that he has learned. As the pressure on Ludlow intensifies and a new Welsh threat emerges against his own family’s lands, Brunin must confront the future head on, or fail on all counts....”

This was my first real foray into Chadwick’s back list – I previously read, A Place Beyond Courage and For the King’s Favor however they were a part of the William Marshall saga and thus felt like one coherent series. While the story is set amongst the civil war between Matilda and Stephen and then the early years of Henry I, the story is much more about the family life with the de Dinans and FitzWarins. There is something of three generational stories within the narrative – you have Brunin’s grandmother, Jocelin and Sybilla (de Dinan) and Fulk and Eve (FitzWarin), and then Brunin and Hawise. Each has its own set of challenges and personalities.

One strength of this novel is the growth and development of characters. At the start of the story Brunin is a sort of wimpy boy who has been constantly put down by his grandmother, father and brothers. By the end of the novel he has had to face many dramatic upheavals in his life and truly becomes a man who will fight for his family and their cause. The same can really be said for Hawise. She starts off as a little “tomboy” – not really interested in sewing with the women but would rather ride her horse and climb and be where she shouldn’t. While she is faced with the responsibilities of the family and her home, she grows into a strong woman of her time. These changes just don’t happen suddenly and unexpectedly, but you see the characters encounter forks in the road and make decisions that will affect their futures.

I am interested in seeing how Lords of the White Castle or (The Outlaw Knight as it will be re-released in the USA in September) will play out as it was originally written first, but is the continuation of the story from Shadows and Strongholds. On a random side note – I think it is interesting that the British covers of both of these books had females on the covers, but the USA releases have men on the covers.

Author Elizabeth Chadwick also has written many books, the other book that is connected to this one although also stands alone is Lords of the White Castle (aka The Outlaw Knight). You can visit Chadwick’s website or blog for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book (click the link and then scroll down a little bit)?

My reviews of other books by this author:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Shadows and Strongholds is by far one of my favorite books of all times! Brunin is also one of my favorite heroes.

    1. I am quite fond of Brunin - he is right up there with William Marshall!

  2. i'm glad this one was so much about the characters! FOr the King's Favor is my fave by her.

    1. I agree! For the King's Favor is my favorite too. A close second (very close second) is The Greatest Knight.

  3. I love Elizabeth Chadwick's novels! I have all of her books sitting on my shelves (including her back list) and am slowing working my way through them. I've not yet read this one, but it will definitely be doing so this year.

    Great review!

    1. I wish I had all of the backlist - but I'm assuming that Sourcebooks is going to putting out several more (I hope). I know they are coming out with The Outlaw Knight (aka Lord of the White Castle) this fall.

  4. This the last book from her backlist that I have left to read and I just can't bring myself to do it. I think I like the comfort of knowing I have one left. Once her new book comes out I might bite the bullet and read this one!

    1. Oh I imagine I would be the same way too! It's too hard to wait for the next book to come out.


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