Series: (The Fitzwaren Novels #1)
Author: Elizabeth Chadwick
Published: November 29th 2005
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (first published July 2004)
Source: From the Publisher, in exchange of an honest review!
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....
I do admit that Shadows and Strongholds isn't necessarily my usual type of read, but I really liked this book. At first I didn't think it would be this kind of reading. I may have misread the blurb at first, but I didn't expect this. I rather expected something in the same genre as Julianne MacLean, but this is really not the case. More in the genre of Mireille Calmel, if you read in French or Diana Gabaldon!
I was pleasantly surprised by my growing interest in the characters and the basic story. I was immediately resulted in the intensity of life at that time and I created a quick link with Brunin FitzWarin and Hawise, the main characters of this story. I loved the complexity of these two characters, but mainly Brunin that we follow from childhood to adulthood. He will suffer the ups and downs of an intensive and harsh learning, offered by Lord Joscelin, to become a knight.
I loved the romance that intertwines with the rude description of the kind of life at that time. Arranged marriages, quarrels between neighbors to gain territory and that all are forced to live under the authority of a monarchy that can change every second! The plot was interesting, but not something I never read about. I was most impressed by some treasons that occur during the reading and that demonstrates the ability of the author to build a good story. The fact that this romance is only at the 3/4 of the book doesn't bother me, because I was so absorbed by the story as such, that I did not even notice its non-existence.
The fact that the story wasn't always about Brunin, but also on his family, friends and Lord Jocelin family too added to this story. When you read Shadows and Strongholds, you realise that the FitzWarin family have many connection and link through the years and country that it won't and can't ended with only Brunin's story.
This is the first time I read anything written by Elizabeth Chadwick and it will probably not last, because I loved my experience and I hope to read more of this series and from her!
Series: Yes (The Fitzwaren Novels #1)
Stand Alone: Yes, but you will surely want to read the next book!
Hotness: Brunin, but I don't really see him as an ’’Hotness’’
Proserpine Recommendation: Do you love Historical Fiction and Historical Romance? Everything with a medieval background is on your top To-Be-Read List? You love action, romance, treason, fighting scenes? Then this book is for you! Buy-Borrow-TBR pile!
Best selling historical novelist Elizabeth Chadwick won a Betty Trask Award for her first novel The Wild Hunt. She has been shortlisted for the UK's mainstream Best Romantic Novel of the Year Award 4 times and longlisted twice. Her novel The Scarlet Lion about the great William Marshal and his wife Isabelle de Clare, has been selected by Richard Lee, founder of the Historical Novel Society as one of the landmark historical novels of the last ten years.
When not at her desk, she can be found taking long walks with the dog, baking cakes, reading books (of course!) exploring ruins, listening to various brands of rock and metal music, and occasionally slaving over a steaming cauldron with re-enactment society Regia Anglorum.