Review: A Place Beyond Courage

A Place Beyond Courage is a novel of John FitzGilbert (John Marshal). In the year 1130 John is a royal marshal to King Henry I - young he may be, but through his courage and cunning he earned his stripes and respect and men knew not to mess with him. As royal marshal, John was the gate-keeper to the king - if you wanted to see the king, you needed to get past John first. He was also in charge of the court's living arrangements, the horses, the dogs and hawks - there was nothing John didn't have his hand in, including the approval and upkeep of the court whores. This last part did have it's perks, as John says...
"Where would the court be for information, madam, without the digging of prostitutes and priests?"
When John gets to the point in his life where his thoughts turn to marriage and the begetting of an heir, he thoughts are to the practical, not romantic. He marries the daughter of an acquaintance, Aline - a nervous girl, afraid of her own shadow. These two could not have been more imperfectly matched. Despite all the time John was away on court business and all the time Aline spent praying on her knees, they did manage to produce two sons, thus securing the FitzGilbert name.

So, things are going well for heir with one to spare at home, the owner of many estates, a pretty, young wife - so what if she passes out at the sight of blood or gives all his money to the church - she's loyal and fertile, what else could you ask for? Then King Henry has to go and screw things up by dying without naming a successor, throwing the court into chaos and beginning the fight over the throne of England between the king's daughter, Mathilda, and the king's nephew, Stephen.

As sides are chosen and loyalties are made, John has to tread carefully, as he has haters on either side that would like to see him knocked down the ladder a bit. He realizes that the only chance of securing his lands would be to align himself with his enemy, Patrick of Salisbury, who was his neighbor. And what better way than to marry Salisbury's sister, Sybilla. The little matter of getting rid of Aline is quickly dealt with and John is just as swiftly married to Sybilla. Even though you know Sybilla is a much better match for John, you can't help but feel for the cast off Aline, who was quite unsure as to what it was she had done wrong to be so treated, then had her children taken away from her and packed off like an unwanted guest. But, neither could you not like John's new wife, Sybilla, who was quite the opposite of his first. John had finally met his match in this fiery, strong woman and in doing so, fell deeply in love.

The dynamic relationship of John and Sybilla was a pleasure to read, Chadwick excels at capturing love and describing it well. John saying that "if he lost Sybilla, he would be like a boat with a hole torn in it's keep and the sea bleeding in to sink it". They had many children together, including the famous William Marshal of Chadwick's novels The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion (he was the kid in the famous "hammer and anvil" speech made by his father). It was interesting to see this event through the eyes of John, a side I'd never been privy to and one which absolves him of being the heartless bastard he came across as. I also had wondered about what William's mother was going through when William was a hostage and now I know...hoping that her husband's intuition that Stephen would be too soft to really follow through with the threat would prove true, but bracing for the worst. Those were some heart wrenching scenes!

Yet again, another of Chadwick's novels has been given another five star rating from yours truly. No one can do medieval like Chadwick; she brings the people and the places alive and it's pure enjoyment to read her novels. I liked John a lot more than I thought I would and am so pleased that Chadwick chose to write about him, he most definitely earned his place in the history books. Very much recommended.


  1. I must absolutely start reading Chadwick. Your reveiew is one excellent reason why. Thanks, Amy-another attention-grabbing review!

  2. I have just read THE GREATEST KNIGHT and am almost finished with THE SCARLET LION -- now I want to read ALL of EC's work!

  3. Now I need to go look for this book, too! (Already have the Lady Grey book on my list.)

  4. Great review Amy, I gave The Greatest Knight and The Love Knot 5stars and I have this one sitting on my bookshelf so I think it's time to pick it up.

  5. Great review as usual Amy. Do you have any idea what you're doing to my wishlist these days. lol.

  6. You know that I am with you in terms of being an EC fan! I try and encourage as many people as possible to read her, and can't wait until her books are going to be more available!

  7. No one, but no one sucks me into another century as well as Chadwick. She's the best.

  8. I still have never read Elizabeth Chadwick! I really really need to remedy that one of these days!

  9. Kailana I don't know what you, or Teddyrose for that matter, are waiting for! LOL!

  10. I really need to read Elizabeth Chadwick. Thanks for the review!


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