Templar Silks by Elizabeth Chadwick
|Templar Silks by Elizabeth Chadwick|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ruth Wilson|
|Summary: A shining example of historical fiction. Chadwick creates a rich and sumptuous world that William Marsh has to try to navigate, desperately trying to atone for past sins whilst trying not to acquire more in the new and drastically different Court of the Holy Land.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 496||Date: March 2018|
|External links: Author's website|
Templar Silks is a great example of historical fiction done well. It's a fictitious account of William Marshal's time in Jerusalem during the late 1100s during a brief spell of calm before the death of King Baldwin to leprosy in 1185. Elizabeth Chadwick has written a previous book about William Marshal but glossed over this period in his life for lack of research. In this book she goes back to fill in the gaps having spent time studying this particular period of his life. Her main problem, as she acknowledges at the end of the book, is that virtually nothing is known of Marshal's time in Jerusalem. We know when and why he went, we know who the major power players were, we know when he came back and that is about it. So understandably, this book is probably more fiction than history but it is brilliantly written none the less.
We start this adventure with the death of the son of King Henry II: Harry has been crowned King of England by his father but not been given any of the power that goes with the title, so Harry has started a war with his father. To fund this he and his men, including Marshall, commit a great crime against the Church and then Harry promptly dies. To try to redeem their souls and save his king from an eternity of damnation Marshall sets off for the Holy Land on Pilgrimage to lay Harry's cloak on the tomb of Jesus and pray for forgiveness. This is all historically accurate and sets the tone for what is to follow.
Personally, I enjoy Chadwick's style of historical fiction; I feel she strikes the right balance between maintaining the historical accuracy of her characters and the actions and choices she makes on behalf of her characters to tell their story and to fill in gaps in their history. She writes in formal but modern English for their speech but leaves the names of people and places in their original French to be authentic to the era and the language of the court. The fictitious elements are written with equal certainty and gravitas as the factual elements and the whole story sits together with ease with a real feeling of authenticity.
This story might not be filled with the battles and heroism as might be imagined for a book set during the Holy Wars but it is instead filled with small personal battles as William struggles to find his future path. With the death of King Harry, William finds himself adrift; his place in King Henry's Court is uncertain and emotionally he is dealing with the grief of losing a friend and the guilt of his sacrilege. It is important to remember that at this point religion was the backbone of his world and he truly believes he will be damned for his actions. What follows is William trying to find his path for the future and atone for his sins whilst living in one of the most luxurious and exotic Courts in the world. Chadwick finds just the right balance between a man who is determinedly honourable and noble, and a real flesh and blood man who enjoys the pleasures the world has to offer. At the start we see William trying to find himself and his future and at the end we see a man who might not have found himself yet, but who knows for certain who he is not, and what lines he will not cross no matter the cost.
William Marshal is a wonderful character; he died aged 72, a venerable age for the 1200s. He lived through the rule of six kings and personally served five of them. He is remembered historically for his almost stubborn honour and loyalty and his determined steadfastness and this book does him justice. Despite its mainly fictitious content it feels real and true. The characters around William, again mainly fictitious, are given weight and substance and are used to better show William's character. This book feels like a fair representation of a man who is remembered as the backbone of early English history.
For something similar you could also try The Forbidden Queen by Anne O'Brien
You can read more book reviews or buy Templar Silks by Elizabeth Chadwick at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Templar Silks by Elizabeth Chadwick at Amazon.com.
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