Thanks to Danielle from Sourcebooks for providing me a review copy of The Scarlet Lion. It was much appreciated! From what I know, it’s the sequel to The Greatest Knight which I have not read. However, The Scarlet Lion can be read on its own without having to rely on background information from the previous book. Therefore, this book can be read as a stand alone.
The Scarlet Lion is the story of William Marshal who’s dubbed “The Greatest Knight who ever lived”. After hearing word that King Richard has died, he chooses to back Prince John as King of England. Little did he know that this would cause a lot of trouble for him in the years ahead. They both have a falling out and John takes William’s two sons as hostages while trying to make William’s life an absolute miserable hell. As the years progress, William then finds himself in a position with immense power to be able to do whatever he wants…
To me, this book felt like I was reading one of Sharon Kay Penman’s novels. There were some differences but the writing is almost similar and so is the idea of following a family through several years and how they have evolved through that time. It was an interesting historical read, I have never heard of William Marshal and it was a nice history lesson for me. The plot was well written although not as rich in history as say, for example, Sharon Kay Penman’s When Christ and his Saints Slept. However, this book is a wonderful family saga as it takes you through William and Isabelle’s life with their children, and the historical events surrounding them. There isn’t much court intrigue here that I was expecting but I was willing to accept this, as the book was well written.
The battle scenes are all right, although I expected a little more detail and more action. What was more central to the plot was mainly William and Isabelle’s relationship, their family, and their endless fight against King John and his schemes. King John was every bit the villain here as I expected. He wasn’t the explosive tempermental character that I thought he would have been, but more of a cunning, sly, scheming one that was constantly thinking of plots against his men or to have them turn against each other. It’s a sneaky sly version of King John. An interesting side of him that I have heardly seen. It’s a nice sight to read, as I’m used to seeing a different version of him altogether. I’d have to say, Isabelle is my favorite character. For a woman, and especially one during those times, she’s extraordinarily strong and supportive towards William even when it came to her sons becoming “hostages”. There was a very strong bond between the two and their love never failed. I thought they were both meant for each other, and complimented each other perfectly. My favorite part would be Isabelle holding off a potential invasion in Ireland. It showed her strength and determination to hold onto her beloved homeland.
A few shortfalls do happen in this novel, I thought it was long in some parts, and it seemed to have dragged. It did take me quite a while to finish this book. I guess because it didn’t have the intrigue and constant plotting of court life. I also expected a story rich with historical descriptions and lots of historical detail, but it was more of a family saga set in a historical setting. Nevertheless I do suggest fans of historical fiction to give this a read, I did learn quite a few things here and there, especially of the life of William Marshal. Also, there is an element of romance in the novel, it’s really nothing that explicit. It’s to be expected as William and Isabelle were central to the story.
Overall, a good historical read that centralizes around a family saga. I do recommend this to those who enjoy reading stories of Medieval England.
I give it a 6 out of 10.