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Aug 28, 2012

(2 book Giveaway!) A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick

Honor and loyalty like water..
A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick
Sourcebooks USA edition September 1, 2012
{Published October 4th 2007 by Sphere UK}
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Four Stars

My other Chadwick reviews:
The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick (2010, 4 stars)
The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick (2010, 4.5 stars)
Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick (2011, 5 stars)*Favorited!
To Defy A King by Elizabeth Chadwick (2011, 4.5 stars)

The early twelfth century is a time for ambitious men to prosper, and royal servant John FitzGilbert Marshal is one of them. Raised high as the kin of the deceased King Henry battle each other for England's throne, John reaps rich rewards but pays a terrible price for the choices he makes - as do his family. His wife, fragile, naïve Aline is hopelessly unequipped to cope with the demands of a life lived on the edge and, when John is seriously injured in battle, her worst nightmare is realised. Sybilla, bright, forthright sister to the Earl of Salisbury, finds herself used as a bargaining counter when her brother seeks to seal a truce with his troublesome neighbour, John FitzGilbert. And then there is Sybilla's small son, William, seized hostage by the King for John's word of honour. But sometimes keeping your honour means breaking your word.
Previous releases by Elizabeth Chadwick such as The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion chronicle the honorable William Marshal and his family during times of war and unrest in the 12th century. Stepping back a bit, A Place Beyond Courage is the story of William's parents, John and Sybilla Marshal. The period is a harsh one, with the battle for the throne of England that lasted for many years, costing many lives and giving families little security. The one hope was for the future: young Henry FitzEmpress could take it over from King Stephen if England could just hold on for that long. This was an era that was aptly named in Sharon Kay Penman's novel When Christ and His Saints Slept.

Elizabeth Chadwick is a master at this period and meticulously researches her material, and presents the story eloquently and passionately. The characters this time around however took awhile to ingratiate themselves, as John Fitzgilbert (Marshal) seemed all too eager to throw his word away, yet so was every one else when it came to the oath to the FitzEmpress. John's first wife Aline is also a major figure for the first half of the book, and she was not someone to be admired. She was the opposite in character traits that a hardened man like John needed, and she could never evoke any sympathy from me. Several times over the narration explained that the marriage between Aline and John was one of little rapport and that they only coupled to beget that heir etc. Once Aline was out of the picture I was able to enjoy the story more, as Sybilla became John's new wife and thus the story held a lot more hope. Sybilla was a strong young woman and perfect helpmate to John. Babies were born, and along came William whom we know from the other works of Chadwick's. When we get to the part about William becoming a hostage under King Stephen, I cried. And when William came back alive (as we knew he would), I cried then too.

The rest of the story filled in the political pieces of the horrible era before young Henry Fitzempress became King and was full of battles, trebuchets, uneasy nobles and alliances that were made and broken over and over again. Fair warning, there was a bit more sexual content than I remembered from the previous books. If you are a newbie to the era, the many names and castles could be a little confusing yet a perfect beginner's start to the period, but for the seasoned reader of the era it is a rehashing of the events with the main story coming from the outlook of John Marshal. Little William definitely stole the show here too, though. He is still my favorite knight!

Courtesy of the publisher Sourcebooks, they are giving away A Place Beyond Courage AND The Greatest Knight!!

Please comment here with your email address, and let me know what 12th Century reads you have enjoyed! US & Canada only please. Giveaway ends September 3rd 2012.