Moppet's Reviews > To Defy a King

To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
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May 20, 10

Read in May, 2010

To Defy A King tells the story of Mahelt Marshal, favourite daughter of the powerful William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. At fourteen Mahelt is married to Hugh, eldest son of Roger and Ida Bigod. Hugh’s half-brother is William of Salisbury (known as William Longespee), and his half-brother is King John. The book is all about divided loyalties: Hugh and Longespee have an uneasy relationship and Mahelt finds herself caught between the family she was born into and the one she married into. As the country descends into civil war, Hugh and Mahelt find themselves on the opposite side to Longespee and to Mahelt’s beloved father.

I wasn’t sure at first how much I would like Mahelt, who is very headstrong, a little spoiled and begins the book with a lot of growing up to do. But while she does have the occasional Fallon Carrington moment, once she married Hugh I found myself totally on her side. A paradox of historical fiction is that while readers usually prefer feisty heroines, in the past assertiveness was not appreciated in women and strong-willed females usually suffered for their lack of pliability. While Mahelt develops into a very appealing heroine, she pays the price for her rebelliousness more than once.

The theme of rebellion comes to the fore in the years leading up to Magna Carta, as the king’s relationship with his barons steadily deteriorates. While this novel is written from the point of view of the barons driven to breaking point by King John’s abuse of his power, Elizabeth Chadwick brings balance to the narrative by allowing us to glimpse John’s point of view. My favourite character was Longespee, who is caught between his identification with his royal heritage, his loyalty to John and the connection he feels to his Bigod relatives. Longespee can’t manage to break free from his rivalry with Hugh, and this leads him into some misbehaviour, so I was glad that he eventually gets the opportunity to redeem himself.

According to the author interview at the back of the book, this novel went through six drafts: as a result, the text is as smooth and rich as hot chocolate, and just as delicious. Enjoy!
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message 1: by Kay (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kay Stopforth "the occasional Fallon Carrington moment"

ROTFL! Yes, Mahelt was pretty annoying early on, but then she *was* a teenager, and she grew up fast. She really matured and grew on me as a character, unlike hubby I'm afraid...


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