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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Winter Mantle by Elizabeth Chadwick

Genre: Historical Fiction

Copyright: 2002

Pages: 512

Rating: 3.5/5 Crowns

This was another fast paced work of wonderfully blended history and fiction from Elizabeth Chadwick. It is the true story of Waltheof of Huntington, an English lord held hostage by William of Normandy, and his Norman bride Judith, William's niece. After finally marrying the woman of dreams, Waltheof realizes that she is not as wonderful as she originally appeared. After many turbulent years of marriage and children, Judith eventually makes a decision that seals Waltheof's fate. As their daughter grows, she desperately wants to avoid the situation her parents ended up in.

This is a wonderfully written book with great descriptions and details and good character development. Chadwick really excels at making the past come alive for the reader in her descriptions of all things in the medieval world. There really are no "villains" in the story, just some really annoying and arrogant people (Judith's mother for one). Waltheof is honorable and quite likeable though his one weakness, his inability to think before he acts, lands him in trouble again and again. Judith starts out as a character I could feel a bit sorry and cheer for because of what she puts up with from her mother. She appears to be a loving, kind hearted girl who just wants to find love - until she and Waltheof marry. This is where my rating on the book began to drop. Once married, Judith morphs into a horrid person I wished Waltheof would slap. Her constant arrogance over her Norman blood being better than Waltheof's English really made me dislike her. It was hard for me to comprehend how someone could change so drastically and so quickly. After her roll in Waltheof's downfall I had absolutely no pity or sympathy left for her. At this point I was a bit confused because the story switches and focuses on Waltheof and Judith's daughter, Matilda. While this was a complete change and not what I was expecting from the book, I enjoyed the whole episode dealing with her marriage to get away from her mother (and I liked seeing Judith get what was coming to her). It was interesting to see how she matured and tried to avoid the mistakes her mother made.

This was a good story, as usual, from Elizabeth Chadwick but not one of my favorites. The change in Judith's character was a huge swing that left me scratching my head a bit. The chemistry between her and Waltheof was so wonderful to read about in the beginning but then it just disappeared. I really loved reading about Waltheof and hated the way he was treated by the woman he loved. The switch in the focus of the story was a bit of a shock as well, though Matilda's story was interesting to read. Those two issues though are what brought my overall rating down on this book.

You can find Robyn at her blog The Lady Gwyn's Kingdom


Marg said...

This is one of the few Elizabeth Chadwick books I haven't read yet. I will eventually.

Teddyree said...

I'm a huge Elizabeth Chadwick fan and have collected most of her books but I've still got quite a few to read, (this being one of them.) I'm pleased to know what to expect with this one. Thanks for a great review!

Blodeuedd said...

She sounds soooo arghh, I would have wished he had slapped her and I haven't even read the book

Deanna/ibeeeg said...

Ugh...I hate it when a story switches up as you described. Regardless, this story still sounds intriguing to me. One that I want to read.
Thanks for the great review.

Misfit said...

I've read this one twice now and enjoyed it a lot. I believe Judith was a bit of a snobbish pill and she's that way in Valerie Anand's books on the Norman Conquest.

Annie - Princess of the Past said...

Wow that was a great review - it seems like you really thought about the rating. I think I might read a different Elizabeth Chadwick as my first.

Robinbird said...

Thank you, Annie. I enjoy writing reviews and I put a lot of thought into them.

sue14625 said...

Elizabeth Chadwick i have not had the pleasure of reading her books .Historical fiction is my favorite genre enter me please i follow on google reader

Jenny Girl said...

I have wanted to read this book for the longest time! It's always checked out of the library. Thank you for the excellent review :)