PS #39: A Place Beyond Courage

39, A Place Beyond Courage, ancestors, book reviews, Elizabeth Chadwick, Henry I, John Marshal, Matilda, popsugar, series, Stephen, William Marshal / Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Date started: 4/18/17

Date finished: 4/27/17

For #39 of the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: The first book in a series you haven’t read.

A Place Beyond Courage written by Elizabeth Chadwick is a historical fiction novel that takes place during the Anarchy period (1135-1154) of English history which covers the civil war between Empress Matilda, daughter of King Henry I, and her cousin Stephen of Blois for the throne of England after the death of King Henry I. This is the first book in the William Marshal series. For most of the book, the point of view is of John Marshal, the father of William Marshal. Other point of views include both of John Marshal’s wives: Aline Pipard (wifey #1) and Sybilla of Salisbury (wifey #2), and his son the future super knight William Marshal.

Unlike other popular historical fiction books, A Place Beyond Courage does not focus on the “main players” of the era. So instead of the book using the point of view of Stephen of Blois or Empress Matilda, Chadwick uses “lesser” known historical characters, who had historical significance, but generally overlooked like John Marshal. What is cool about this is Chadwick uses different perspectives to give her readers some insight to what life might have been like outside of the royal court. Though Chadwick displays some of John Marshal’s prowess as a fighter, efficient and effective Lord Marshal, and tactician, she places him mostly in the domestic setting. For most of the book, John Marshal is trying to maintain his lands and houses while at the same time elevating his social standing (he goes back and forth between working for Matilda and Stephen).

Stephen of Blois

Overall, I enjoyed this book, and will most likely check out the rest of the series when I’m done with these challenges. My favorite part of the novel was when William was taken as a hostage in Stephen’s camp.This section is very tender and emotional, because of William’s naivety of his predicament. Throughout his captivity, Stephen treats William in an almost grandfatherly kind of way. But is is the death of Eustace, Stephen’s son, that brings their interactions to full circle. Stephen opens up to little William in a heartbreaking way about life, fatherhood, and children which makes William uncomfortable. As an adult though, the whole scene is tragic in a way that only a father mourning his dead child could be.

Towards the end of the book, Chadwick really plays up little William Marshal’s character, so many readers will assume he’s destined for greatness, which of course historically is what happens. By the end of the novel, William is reunited with his family and on the path to become the badass he will be remembered as.

Also, I adore how Elizabeth Chadwick’s website is a companion to her books. Check it out:

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