Nisareen's Reviews > The Greatest Knight

The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick
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's review
Jun 03, 2012

really liked it
Read in May, 2012 — I own a copy , read count: 1

The Greatest Knight is a compelling blend of facts and fiction chronicling the life of William Marshal, beginning with his early childhood as a political hostage, to his rise as a knight in the service of Henry I, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their two sons Young King Henry I and King Richard the Lionheart. A man of integrity and fierce loyalty, William walks a tightrope of court politics, brutal combat and conflicting loyalties in his quest to fulfill his destiny.

Having read A Place Beyond Courage prior to The Greatest Knight put me at a advantage, as many aspects of William’s life are covered in the former that are not elaborated on in the latter. In the former we learn the reasons and circumstances behind John FitzGilbert's (William's father) decision to ransom his son to King Stephen and the impact it had on both father and son. In TGK, several references are made about William's promise to King Stephen when he was his hostage that isn't elaborated on but is covered in APBC. There's a part in The Greatest Knight where John Marshal fancies that he sees his father's spectre on the wall at Marlborough which was a poignant moment for those familiar with A Place Beyond Courage as the elder John Marshal fought tooth and nail for it when it was under siege. That the younger John died before having to turn the castle over to King Richard was a mercy. The roots of John Marshal's jealousy towards his younger brother William become clearer if one reads A Place Beyond Courage first. William was an endearing and exceptionally gifted child who was loved dearly by his parents. John felt threatened by him from an early age which unfortunately stayed with him into adulthood.

At over 500 pages, this isn't a light read, and my only criticism of the novel is the pacing and length of the book. However, the narrative is engaging from the very first pages. One of the highlights for me was the characterization of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her friendship with William. I can’t wait to read the follow up novel, The Scarlet Lion

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