Review:The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick

Review: The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick

Mass Market Paperback: 361 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (July 20, 1992)
ISBN-13: 978-0345377241
Genre: historical fiction/romance


Guyon FitzMiles, lord of Ledworth a son of a Welsh Marcher Barron (called so because their lands “march” with the borders of Wales) returns home from the court with some grave news. He’s been ordered by the slightly perverse king William II Rufus, to marry 16-year-old Lady Judith of Ravenstow, the heiress to great lands, coveted also by her evil uncle, Robert de Belleme. His father is less than pleased as he believes this ordered marriage is tantamount to a death sentence because of the inevitable war his son will have to fight with de Belleme. The king’s will is nothing to trifle with, though. Guyon himself is also sad for personal reasons – he has to kiss goodbye to his beloved Welsh mistress, Rhosyn, who is pregnant but refuses to live with him or under his protection.

Some girls at 16 are already physically mature – almost grown women – but lady Judith is still little more than a child. She is also deeply terrified of the physical aspects of marriage. As a very young girl she witnessed very rough treatment her mother received, being beaten and raped, often  in public, by her brutal oik of a husband now happily dead; Judith, not knowing her future lord, doesn’t hope for a better treatment for herself. However, in some people adversity builds strength and despite her young age, Judith is determined to stand up to her new husband, and not be a weakling.

Small wonder marriage turns out to be a difficult experience for both Guyon and Judith, with such a very rough start and such a burden of bad emotions, but fortunately Guyon proves to be not only an experienced lover but also a compassionate and patient partner. He is so moved by the terror of his child bride that he refrains from sex on their wedding night and also later he decides to wait until Judith matures, although they officially sleep in one bed. The problem is they have less and less time together to overcome the mutual distrust. The Welsh raid over the border, and Judith’s uncle Robert de Belleme with his lackeys are always determined to make mischief, even during Judith’s wedding. Guyon’s life is seriously threatened more than once as he gets caught up in the plotting and battling so endemic at the royal court at the end of the 11th century and beginning of the 12th century; many dark deeds and many dark secrets will be unveiled before Judith and Guyon, now passionate lovers, triumph over their evil enemies.

What I liked:

This is Ms Chadwick’s first novel and I must say it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. I liked the fact that the plot followed parallel lines: the personal history of Judith and Guyon, and the history of 12th-century feudal England. I liked it as far as it went but I wasn’t enraptured by it. Also some characters were not bad – I mean here mostly two women, Rhosyn and Judith. Guyon’s dog and Judith’s cat were a nice addition to the narration. The cover design is really pleasant too.

What I didn’t like:

Anachronist turns into a mean nerd, sprouts horns and a tail

Ok, it is supposed to be a historical novel; in such books the author should, in my very humble opinion, try his/her best to do A LOT OF research and present the world as close to the epoch they’ve chosen as possible. Ms Chadwick chose 12th century England, but in her book we might find passages not being entirely in accordance with this setting.

For example Judith and Guyon both can read and write. Excuse me? These skills were not very popular even among the monarchs at that time. Apart from that one must ask: in what language they were taught and who has taught them? At the beginning of the 12th century the most common and often the only places where you could learn such skills were convents and monasteries; most probably you would be taught to write and read in Latin, the lingua franca of that age and many years to come. While the fact that Guyon, the heir of a rich baron, might have had his private tutor in the shape of a monk or a priest, wouldn’t surprise me much. It was unlikely but it could have happened. I couldn’t simply imagine Judith’s obnoxious father squandering money on a teacher of that unworthy daughter of his, though. If you think I am going over the top, here’s more. After the murder of a Welsh merchant compassionate Judith writes a letter of consolation to his family and the letter is read also by Guyon’s mistress, Rhosyn, who later tells Guyon his wife didn’t sound childish in it anymore. Right. Hello, hello, Earth to the author, Earth to the author…time to return to the solid ground of reality. My first question is: in what language was the letter written? Latin? Welsh? Old French? Old Saxon? English? The most probable answer is Latin but then how come a simple Welsh wench or a family of a common Welsh merchant could read Latin? Who taught them for a change?

I also wasn’t entirely persuaded by the pair of protagonists, especially Guyon. Dear me, that guy could have never existed. EVER. Imagine a handsome 30-year-old man in full health, a former courtier who used to enjoy carnal pleasures to the full, sleeping with his nubile wife for a YEAR in the same bed and never touching her…some saints failed an analogical trial which lasted only ONE NIGHT. Although the life of a courtier was a highly stressful morsel of bread and the debauchery of the court was always rather on a higher level than ordinary standards, Guyon returns home practically unspoiled…he is simply too good to be true. And the scene in which he almost died defending a pair of pretty much unknown people just because it seemed the right thing to do…do forgive me my retching and enough of it. I think I made my point. I have to say the lack of experience shows in this book.

The final verdict:

As a recreational read it will do. I am still willing to try other books of Ms Chadwick; I’ve heard they are better. We’ll see.

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16 Responses to Review:The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick

  1. Blodeuedd says:

    Lol, you sure sprouted horns here, but it was her first really real HF so trust me she has learnt and is still learning. They newer ones are researchedSo sorry it was disappointing :(And well perhaps Judith's father taught her for some reason, and Guyon taught his mistress. I think she even addressed the reading part in my book…which happens later in that century and there the main character points out that she actually can read and write

  2. anachronist says:

    You shouldn't be sorry Blodeueddas the book wasn't so totally disappointing.And well perhaps Judith's father taught her for some reasonAnd perhaps my horns and tail are pernament now. If Judith's father knew how to read and write in the first place it would be equally strange. It could have been mentioned somewhere in between, like: "he was an ugly brute and a drunkard, he treated his wife horribly but he knew his letters and even taught a bit his little worthless daughter"Guyon taught his mistress.Oh really? Then he was more unique than I imagined him to be. ;)Being of less noble mind I've always thought the mistresses were kept rather for other reasons than teaching them how to read and write.Out of pure curiosity I did a bit of quick research myself and, as an example of old Welsh books I found the Red Book of Hergest. It was written mostly between 1375-1425 so some two centuries later. As you see, Judith's letters must have been rearly rare examples of Welsh (or English) indeed.she has learnt and is still learningThat's why I am willing to give the authoress a second chance.

  3. Blodeuedd says:

    Oh had forgotten about that….well, damn ok I do not know, perhaps he wanted her to become an abbess. Haha.As for the letters, must have been latin, or French.But yes she is much better now. This one was her"first" before it she had only written HR and those, well you know about the accuracy in those 😉

  4. anachronist says:

    This one was her"first" before it she had only written HR and those, well you know about the accuracy in those 😉 Yes, I do. One of my favourite books is "The name of the Rose" by Umberto Eco. It is set in Middle Ages. Imagine that it took him several years to gather enough info to write that book respecting the veracity of the epoch. It is difficult. On the other hand nobody forces a writer to choose an age they know little about. As I said I am certainly willing to read another Chadwick book and witness the progress.

  5. I think they would have written in French because in 12th Century England that was the language of the court. Most of the Anglo Saxon nobility was wiped out by the constant wars with the Danish and with the aftermath of 1066. It is unlikely any of the women could read, although some women did.I can't see a guy being that patient for a year or a nobleman dying for some villeins. The word villain with all its negative connotations is derived from that word for commoner.Is there such a thing as a mean nerd? 🙂

  6. anachronist says:

    Is there such a thing as a mean nerd? Correct me if I am mistaken but when I am mean about something and I am in my nerdy mode I think I am being a mean nerd. If I, however, am something else, please inform me about it asap. :-)))I think they would have written in French because in 12th Century England that was the language of the court.Thanks for your expert opinion – you are the very person I meant to contact and ask. I would like to emphasize the fact, though, that the letter was written to Welsh recipients who were never a part of the Norman royal court. Somebody would have translated it to them.The word villain with all its negative connotations is derived from that word for commoner. Oh sure, the etymology rules again! Nobody had great love for commoners then.

  7. MissAttitude says:

    I can't find your email!!! *cries*And I'm sorry this wasn't a good read for you 😦 I haven't read it but I agree, when I read historical fiction, I like it to be well-researched and have lots of details 🙂

  8. Deepali says:

    Haha, anachronist – that review is brilliant :DLoads of details and I can totally imagine disliking a book that didn't stay true to the period at the time, if it is portrayed as a historical novel.Agree with you also that a 30 yr old man could not have stayed celibate in that scenario for an entire year – ridiculous.

  9. Blodeuedd says:

    AnaYears, yep, he is the man. I do get the feeling now that this book still was close to her HR roots, and they can be all over the place. Now she researches a lot, a lot of material at the back of the book. And I think it is needed since she often write about real people who have lived, so she studies.The two books coming after this one was not favs of mine, but yes go for more, give her a chance and see if she has evolved in 20 years. I read this one when I was 13, and then I did not care about anything other than they would be happy in the end :)Pst, what do you think about the book I am reading now, it seems to be set just after the Romans have left England. Gwen, Guinevere, has been taught how to read and write…if I am not mistaken, could be though 😉 Oh and the druid tells them stories about The Illiad and such like it was just another story. Lol, that made me cringe more than the writing. It felt weird, some guy living away from everything else had an understanding of that

  10. anachronist says:

    MissAttitude thanks for visiting! I've just allowed you to contact me via e-mail using googleconnect. If you still have problems, do let me know.Deepali I am glad you liked the review – I appreciate your visit!Pst, what do you think about the book I am reading now, it seems to be set just after the Romans have left England. Gwen, Guinevere, has been taught how to read and write…if I am not mistaken, could be though 😉BlodeueddIf she was fortunate enough to be born in a rich family there would be high chances she was taught how to read and write – the Middle Ages were generally one big step backwards compared to the Antiquity, at least when it comes to education.Oh and the druid tells them stories about The Illiad and such like it was just another story.I wouldn't be sure about it either. If it was a "romanized" druid he might have read Illiad, no problem, even if translated into Latin. On the other hand I think druids had their own stories to tell.

  11. Blodeuedd says:

    AnaLol I am back again :)Well she got a guverness, but still they were rather, oh well, it was Guinevere, I am sure she had to know those things. Still dunno if her own dad know how to.But yes the Illiad had me a bit bothered. Why tell stories about legends and countries they will never visit when he should be telling them about their own heritage. And she even thought that big painted guy on a hill was of Hercules..oh look at me going all annoyed over things.

  12. anachronist says:

    Blodeuedd you mean king Arthur's Guinevere? She must have had a governess for sure.In some versions of the Arthurian legend, especially that of Geoffrey of Monmouth, it is said that Guinevere was descended from a noble Roman family and was the ward of Cador, Duke of Cornwall. As such I bet she knew how to read and write for sure but then she would know Illiad without any druid's help.oh look at me going all annoyed over thingsSorry, I know it's catchy. ;))

  13. Blodeuedd says:

    Yup her, but then this is all myth so did she excist at all? Here she is a princess from a pagan northern kingdom and her father has no scribe or anything. They are pretty relaxed up there. She learns from Irsh refugees, and no Roman blood in her veins. Not following good old Geoffrey at all.Haha, it is sure catchy. And especially when I read the book I read. Do you know what always bothered me too, that he did not put her aside. She gave him no children, he knew without an heir the kingdom falls to pieces. he would totally have gotten a new wife

  14. anachronist says:

    Aparently Arthur was so in love with his beautiful wife that he tolerated the lack of children; what's more he was prepared to take her back even after her fling with Lancelot. She was supposed to be very beautiful – a real celtic Hellen of Troy. Perhaps she existed or maybe not, you can't be sure nowadays. In the earlies tales about king Arthur she is not mentioned by name and also her affair seems to be a later addition.

  15. MissAttitude says:

    I didn't get the email :/

  16. anachronist says:

    Sorry for all this fuss – I sent another one from a different address. Check also your spam box.

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