Desert Isle Keeper
Lords of the White Castle
Lords of the White Castle is Elizabeth Chadwick’s eleventh book. Set in late twelfth and early thirteenth century England, it recounts the true tale of the outlaw Fulke FitzWarin, a proud man who dared to stand against King John in order to reclaim his family castle. It also follows the life of Maude le Vavasour, who married Fulke’s mentor Theobald Walter, but fell in love with the outlaw. After Walter’s death, Fulke rescues her from King John’s clutches and together they fight for justice, while founding a dynasty that lasted 200 years.
While not strictly a romance, this superb novel has many strong romantic elements that will appeal to readers who also appreciate a rich historical background in their novels. As with her previous works, Ms Chadwick paints a detailed picture of the Middle Ages, in both its glorious and less appealing aspects. What I loved best was the way the book drew me right in, allowing me to lose myself in another era, one of bitter rivalry, power, intrigue and enduring love. The small details of everyday life are woven tightly into the narrative, enriching the background yet not overwhelming the story. Every setting comes alive, from the banquet hall at Westminster Palace to the forest outside Canterbury into which Fulke and Maude flee after their marriage. In similar fashion, the language is neither overly archaic, nor annoyingly modern. The author uses a few choice older terms and more formal prose to create a medieval feel without drowning the reader in thees, thous, yeas and nays. Her characters are true to their time. Fulke, Maude and King John elicit both sympathy and scorn, while the supporting players are vibrant entities, rather than mere foils for the protagonists. Fans of this period will delight in meeting Henry II, Richard I, William Marshal, the Earl of Chester, William of Salisbury and Hubert Walter and enjoy brief glimpses of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella of Angoulême. Fulke and Maude moved in the highest echelons of Anglo-Norman society and it is to Ms. Chadwick’s credit that she depicts the well-known historical characters as living, breathing beings, not glittering icons.
The plot of necessity follows the facts known about Fulke and his struggle with John, yet the pacing is so well handled that I felt neither bored nor rushed. The numerous subplots are well integrated, serving to add depth to the main one rather than distracting from it. As is common when writing about the Middle Ages, Ms. Chadwick must build upon a skeleton of history, adding nuances and taking license where necessary. Her talent lies in her ability to do so without destroying the overall historical integrity of carefully researched background. Some readers may find the use of omniscient point-of-view a little off-putting. It did not bother me, though there were a couple of times I wasn’t sure from whose point-of-view the story was being told. I likely only noticed because as a writer it’s something I tend to analyse and it by no means detracted from the story.
What makes this book a DIK for me? Its characters, sense of history and touching love story (though I warn you, there’s no HEA to be found.) Ms. Chadwick’s books continue to enthral and impress me. Her dedication to creating believable characters and doing accurate research shine through yet again. If you love the medieval period, do not miss this book.