Book review : Templar Silks …and the places books take you!

Having discovered Elizabeth Chadwick through her wonderful Eleanor of Aquitaine Trilogy I was delighted to be able to review Templar Silks, due for publication 4th June 2019. Thank you to Sourcebooks for an Advance Reader Copy.

Templar Silks continues the story of William Marshall. Having served loyally as a Knight at the court Henry II, William is reaching the end of his long life. Realising this illness will be his last William knows it is time to fulfil his vow, made long ago in Jerusalem, to become a Templar Monk.

Whilst waiting for his Templar Silks to be delivered to him, William prepares himself for what lies ahead by recalling a lost time; his pilgrimage to the Holy Land to lay the cloak of his Lord, Henry the Young King on Christ’s tomb.

Through his rich and vivid memories, some sensuous, many disturbing Chadwick recreates this incredible and evocative time in history.

What has always struck me about Elizabeth Chadwick’s writing is her amazing eye for detail, and Templar Silks is no exception. At no point does any description feel laboured or over long. Rather such passages are a delight to the readers senses. The opulent Jerusalem Court of the the 1100’s provides the perfect scope for Chadwick to weave her magic. Whether the reader is in the throes of battle or the inner sanctum of a court Mistress, Chadwick is skilled at drawing the reader into the novel. They are able to taste, smell feel their surroundings stepping back hundred of turbulent years in the process.

Moreover the level of detail is testament to just how well researched this novel is. Whilst it is documented that William Marshall did actually spend time in Jerusalem, his actions there are largely unknown, giving the author tremendous creative freedom. Such freedoms within in a historical novel can be both a blessing and a curse. The great challenge is always to stay true to character and importantly period. Through sustained and thorough research Chadwick, as always, pulls it off.

Her portrayal of a life governed by earthly and spiritual duty is rich and colourful. Marshall is portrayed an honourable but flaw man, living in treacherous times.

As with the Eleanor Trilogy there are strong female characters within the novel. Characters that use what power they have to make their own mark in a male dominated and often brutal world. Chadwick is often concerned with love but she is always concerned with power, and how the power balance is constantly and ruthlessly shifting in uncertain times.

Elizabeth Chadwick’s ability to evoke a sense of place is impeccable. She is able to create worlds long gone in vivid detail and she does what only a truly skilled writer’s can. She makes you want to go there. Not just in your minds eye; Chadwick makes you want to pack a bag, maybe hijack a tardis or two and physically experience what you have read about.

That was exactly the experience I had after reading the Eleanor Trilogy a couple of years ago. The Summer Queen, The Autumn Throne and The Winter Crown tell the fascinating story of Eleanor of Aquitaine who was married to both Louis VII of France and Henry II of England. A duchess and ruler in her own right, she was a powerful women in a time when when it was very much the exception rather than the rule. Her second marriage to Henry produced eight children but also saw her incarcerated for her role in the rebellionby her son Henry the Young King against his father.

Chadwick’s description and portrayal of Eleanor as both a Queen and a woman was powerful, and again cleverly drawn sense of place drew me in. It lead to one of those occasions that my family dread but almost (!) always end up thanking me for; one of those occasions when we went in search of history.

Or as my youngest son calls it ‘some random place Mother has read about in a book.’ !

This time the random place in question was Fontevraud Abbey, in the beautiful Loire Valley.

Truly a place of beauty both in setting and architecture, this World Heritage Site was the final resting place of Eleanor. Along with Henry and two of their children, Richard I and Joan, it is believed that their remains were moved or destroyed during the French Revolution. However Eleanor’s beautiful tomb and effigy remain.

Books take you places; cliché it maybe but it’s undeniably true. A good book can transport you to other worlds without you leaving your seat. It take you away, through the pictures it paints in your head. And a great book will paint those pictures and make you want to touch them, smell than and walk amongst them.

So reading Templar Silks I am currently in search of a time machine. Anyone know how I can hitch a lift to Jerusalem in the Middle Ages!!

Books mentioned in this blog:

  • Templar Silks – Elizabeth Chadwick
  • The Summer Queen – Elizabeth Chadwick
  • The Autumn Throne – Elizabeth Chadwick
  • The Winter Crown – Elizabeth Chadwick

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