Judith’s review of The Outlaw Knight (The Fitzwarin Novels #3) by Elizabeth Chadwick
New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Chadwick continues her tradition of gripping historical fiction with this tale of honor, treachery, and love spanning the turbulent reigns of four great medieval kings.
Fulke FitzWarin has played many roles–loyal knight, dangerous outlaw, dashing lover, loyal husband. But when a violent quarrel with King John disrupts Fulke’s ambition to become Lord of his own castle, his true character as a valiant hero is revealed.
There are novels and then there are NOVELS, and this is one of those epic historical romances that spans nearly the full lifespan of a young man whose life is geared to becoming a knight of reknown and regaining the family heritage stolen from them by the present king’s father. It is a book that winds its way through the halls of Westminster Palace, in and out of the highways and byways of Britain and Wales and Ireland, embraces the lives of the FitzWarin brothers as well as those whose personal friendship and loyalty become part and parcel of Fulke’s life. Some of those friends will be present to the very end of his days. Many will have betrayed that friendship in exchange for political favor from a king whose word fails to mean anything throughout his life.
Fulke is a young man on a mission, but somehow his personal life becomes entangled with that of Prince John, youngest brother of Richard the Lionheart and a man with a fine brain and almost no conscience. His goal in life is to please himself and in that quest he encounters Fulke and manages to make a life-long enemy. The quality of Fulke’s honor, of his inner strength of purpose and the guiding principles of his life are tested time and again. He falls in love with his mentor’s young wife the day of their marriage, yet he never even thinks to violate that sacred trust or the friendship he bears in common with this man who has saved him from great harm at Prince John’s hand and who has guided him through the years of preparation for his knighthood.
This is really a novel that is quite biographical in its feel. It is fiction, don’t get me wrong. Yet it is telling the story of a man’s life and experience, one that takes him beyond the boundaries of his home country as he lives in exile, takes him away from his relationship with his English ruler into the inner workings of the Welsh royal politics while putting him squarely in danger many times as he seeks to balance his skills as a knight/warrior with the need for diplomacy. His years as a husband are fraught with difficulty for those are, at least in the beginning, the most stressful as he lives on the run from medieval bounty hunters and a king who would put considerable resources toward catching and killing him. Just as he is a man of strong loyalty to his family quest for justice long denied, so he is deeply and passionately devoted to his wife and children, even as he tries to balance all the claims on his time and energy. His reknown is told by the bards and troubadors in word and song, yet Fulke is a man who never understands how he can become the stuff of legend when he is simply trying to be a good man.
I don’t think true lovers of historical romance fiction, especially this 12th and 13th century period, want to miss reading this spectacular book. Filled with color and action, people of note and those who receive little attention in the history books, yet all woven into a literary tapestry that is not to be found anywhere else among current romance literature. It’s just that good! I hope you will find it to be the exceptional reading experience as I have.
I am delighted to give it a rating of 5 out of 5.
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.
This title is available from Sourcebooks Landmark. You can buy it here or here in e-format.
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