Friday, March 25, 2011

Review: To Defy a King

To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick

Publication Date: March 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: Paperback, 544pp
ISBN-13: 9781402250897

(Received for review from Sourcebooks)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

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Excerpt from
To Defy a King
Book Trailer:

Synopsis (Book Blurb):

The adored and spirited daughters of England's greatest knight, Mahelt Marshal lives a privileged life. But when her beloved father falls foul of the volatile and dangerous King John, her world is shattered. The king takes her brothers hostage and Mahelt's planned marriage to Hugh Bigod, son of the Earl of Norfolk, takes place sooner than she expected. Mahelt and Hugh come to care for each other deeply, but Hugh's strict father clashes with the rebellious Mahelt. When more harsh demands from King John threaten to tear the couple's lives apart, Mahelt finds herself facing her worst fears alone, not knowing if she - or her marriage - will survive.

A brilliant story of a vibrant woman in a tyrant's world. To Defy a King is another impeccably researched masterpiece from a beloved author.


Elizabeth Chadwick once again thrills her fans and garners an even bigger following with her latest historical novel,
To Defy a King. Chadwick's fourth novel about the family of one of the greatest knights in history, William Marshal is sure to have fans sitting up late, lost in the history of 13th century England. Chadwick's ability to bring the sights and sounds of this time period to life for the reader is unmatched in the historical fiction genre. Readers will fall in love with the vibrant and determined "Matty", as she tries to save her family from the tyranny of King John.

Mahelt, "Matty" Marshal is the daughter of one of the most powerful men in England, William Marshal, famous knight and Earl of Pembroke. She is given in marriage to Hugh Bigod, a politically advantageous union for the Marshal and Bigod families. Matty has led a privileged up until now, and though she is very young she enters the marriage with high hopes. She and Hugh eventually come to love each other very deeply and share four children together. But their relationship is not without it's problems as Matty continually clashes with her father-in-law, Roger Bigod. Being a Marshal daughter is very different from being a Bigod wife. When her father falls out of favor with King John over his political policies and the taking of English lands, Matty's brothers are taken captive and she is left to try to free her family and still remain loyal to her husband's family as well.

Elizabeth Chadwick has a knack for capturing the spirit and sense of history surrounding 13th century England. Her books about William Marshal and his family are both historically accurate and extremely entertaining. In her latest novel,
To Defy a King, Chadwick brings readers the story of Mahelt Marshal, a vibrant young woman, who is determined to save her family and her marriage when the political and religious upheaval of King John's reign threatens to overcome them.

Matty is a strong character that we meet at a young age. We see her grow into womanhood throughout the book and become a wife and mother, but she still stays to true to her herself. She is determined and resourceful as she goes about trying to free her family. I think the author did a remarkable job making her character believable and easy to relate to. Readers will find her interesting and very forthright. She doesn't hold back her opinions even with her father-in-law. She is described as rebellious, though I think there was more to it than that. She was just confident in her ideas and what she believed. Chadwick makes her come alive in every way.

One of the things that was so impressive about this book was the amount of research that went into it. It is obvious that Chadwick takes this aspect of her writing very seriously and that gives her books a very authentic feel. She is able to give the reader a clear sense of what 13th century England was like from the culture and customs to right down to the mindset each character would have possessed had they lived during this time period. Chadwick even goes so far as to go to the places her where her characters walked, eat the food they would have eaten and dress in the clothing of the time. She makes her characters come alive for the reader in a very entertaining way. I also like the author's notes at the end of the book that gave the reader a clear idea of what parts of the story were historically based and what parts were the thoughts and ideas of the author.

The backdrop of King John's reign is impressive in itself. King John was notorious for his political dealings and his malicious actions and attitudes. I found myself very interested in finding out more about King John and why he did the things he did. Chadwick has the ability to engage the reader and educate as well as entertain them. The circumstances that led up to the Magna Carta are described in such detail that the reader will find themselves as interested in the political climate as in the story itself. I think the author does a remarkable job of giving just enough historical detail, without going overboard.

I really enjoyed this book. Though Chadwick has written several books about the Marshal family,
To Defy a King can stand on it's own very well. Though I do encourage readers to read Chadwick's other books to give themselves a greater understanding of the times and the background for this novel. The book starts out a little on the slow side, but picks up quickly and Chadwick's engaging personal style begins to shine through. I think readers will love her attention to detail and the superb character development in this book. Matty is a very strong character that I found myself falling in love with and wanting to read more about.

Please take a look at my interview with Elizabeth Chadwick for details on how you could win a copy of
To Defy a King.

To Defy a King is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Elizabeth Chadwick is a bestselling, award winning author of historical fiction. A born storyteller, her first novel The Wild Hunt won a Betty Trask Award in 1990. She has been four times shortlisted for the RNA Award in the UK for the best mainstream romantic novel. Her book The Scarlett Lion was selected as one of the top ten works of historical fiction of the decade by Richard Lee, founder of The Historical Novel Society.

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