|Sphere UK Edition published in 2006|
Lords of The White Castle by Elizabeth Chadwick
Historical Medieval Fiction
Originally published in Great Britain, 2000, by Little, Brown and Company
Paperback 678 pages
This copy from personal collection, ordered from Book Depository
Burton Book Review Rating:
Read an excerpt
Previous Elizabeth Chadwick Reviews at Burton Book Review
A violent quarrel with the future King John destroys the young Fulke FitzWarin's greatest ambition: to become Lord of the White Castle. Instead of accepting his fate, Fulke rebels. But the danger pursuing Fulke reaches new heights as he begins a passionate love affair with Maude Walter - the wealthy widow chosen by John himself.
Negotiating a maze of deceit, treachery and shifting alliances, Fulke's route to success is fraught. And when the turmoil of the Magna Carta rebellion combines with a shocking tragedy, everything Fulke has fought for is thrown into the path of destruction.
I had just completed reading Chadwick's Shadows and Strongholds when in the Author's note Chadwick mentioned that a previous release of hers will continue the story of the FitzWarin family. I was so ecstatic, since I owned Lords of The White Castle for a year or so and was happy to keep on going with this medieval story of love and war. This novel picks up with Fulke FitzWarin, who is a few years younger than Prince John. If you've read Chadwick's William Marshal novels, you'll recognize this Prince John as the evil and malevolent King John in the Marshal novels. As a prince, he is no better. Prince John and Fulke are not friends from the onset, but Fulke still has to serve Prince John. He is still young squire at fifteen, and it was very intriguing to watch Fulke reach adulthood and see what he would do to win the FitzWarin castle back from my last read in Shadows and Strongholds so that he could finally become the lord of that White Castle.
Fulke le Brun is the main character from Shadows, and this novel jumps ahead to his son, Fulke in 1184 as he is a reluctant courtier in the court of Prince John. Fulke has five brothers, and they are similar to the Robin Hood/Three Musketeers legends as the band of brothers find themselves branded as outlaws once Fulke realizes that King John will never give back the land of FitzWarin's grandfather. It is this ultimate quest for Whittington that the story relies upon, but there are also layers and layers of story lines with many strong characters, which is where Elizabeth Chadwick is such a masterful storyteller. Fulke and John become bitter enemies, and their lives are punctuated like moves on a chess board, where such a game is the symbolism of the beginning of the paramount battle for superiority. Both men are stubborn and strong, and both men have those who are willing to support them in their quest to out maneuver the other.
I will admit that after devouring Shadows and Strongholds, I wanted to dive right into that same page turning atmosphere with Lords of The White Castle. But it ended up being a bit slow going for the first few hundred pages as it set the story up for the next generation (maybe it was a mistake for me to continue the story right away). It took awhile for Fulke to grow into manhood and for the love of his life to become available to him, and it wasn't until that happened that I felt we were finally getting somewhere. Still, with Chadwick's skill we are transported to the medieval era and we can feel as close to the main characters as we could possibly be. Fulke's wife Maude is a lady to be reckoned with, and I admired her tenacity and her intellect. The two as a couple were portrayed as blazing hot when together, which added an enjoyable romance element to the historical fiction. As the years went on, their love still held them together, in spite of the major issues that King John forced upon them which hindered Fulke's upmost need for the castle of Whittington. That was always his main concern, his raison d'être, even if it meant harming his family politically. Sometimes he seemed like a blockhead because of the stubbornness.
The ending was sort of weird for me.. I normally feel a sense of euphoria over such a magnificent story of Chadwick's, but this time I was just glad I was done. It is a chunkster, and in hindsight I figure I should have let a bit of space in between reading the two FitzWarin stories so close together. This novel has many glowing reviews, as expected from a Chadwick novel these days and I would definitely recommend the story to those readers who enjoy romance, with a hefty dose of the vindictive King John. Just space out your King John reads! Don't forget, I absolutely LOVED Shadows and Strongholds, and you can read my review here.
Edit to Add: Sourcebooks will be reissuing this novel in the USA in September 2013, with a new title. Chadwick also said she cut huge chunks of it, so perhaps it won't be as close to 700 pages! Watch for The Outlaw Knight in September!