The Wild Hunt is the first book in the Ravenstow trilogy by Elizabeth Chadwick.
Quick Review (read on for full review)
Very readable and addictive. The Wild Hunt is everything I enjoy in historical fiction: rich, historical detail intertwined with intriguing fictional elements. 5 / 5
Summary (from Goodreads)
In the wild, windswept Welsh marches a noble young lord rides homewards, embittered, angry and in danger. He is Guyon, lord of Ledworth, heir to threatened lands, husband-to-be of Judith of Ravenstow. Their union will save his lands – but they have yet to meet…
For this is Wales at the turn of the twelfth century. Dynasties forge and fight, and behind the precarious throne of William Rufus political intrigue is raging. Caught amidst the violence are Judith and Guyon, bound together yet poles apart. But when a dark secret from the past is revealed and the full horror of war crashes over Guyon and Judith, they are forced to face insurmountable odds. Together…
Panic was like fire when it spread – difficult to contain and very destructive.
(The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick, page 323)
This is the first of Elizabeth Chadwick’s books that I have read, and must say, I found it compelling, addictive reading. I’m looking forward to reading more from the author, and not just the remaining books in the Ravenstow trilogy, but her others as well.
The two main characters are Guyon and Judith, forced together by an arranged marriage, courtesy of King William Rufus. Somehow these two strangers – one worldly and experienced, the other terrified and naïve – must find a way to make their marriage work, for they are besieged on all sides by danger. They cannot afford discord at home as well; there is too much at stake.
The age gap between the two was handled sensitively (if I remember rightly, it is twelve years; Judith is sixteen years old), yet it kept in mind that their respective ages wouldn’t have caused a stir in the 1090’s. It’s interesting to read how their relationship develops over the course of the book, and how Judith grows from not-quite-a-woman at the start of it to a woman by the end of it. The transformation is written perfectly.
The politics at this time are complex, especially in the region of the Marches, where the Norman nobility are trying to subdue the Welsh. To complicate matters further, the Marcher Lords are not together united, but rather striving for their own personal power and wealth. These issues are dramatized well in the story. Indeed, the historical detail, whether in terms of events, or descriptions of castle features, or the fashion of the time period, is richly described, and the fictional elements combining with it create a captivating tale.
My favourite character was probably Rhosyn. I found her intriguing; her position, her life, her story. I would love to read a novella that focuses on her life on the other side of the border.
Tis story is very readable. The narrative captures the imagination, bringing the beauty and the danger of the Marches in the eleventh century to life with ease. The author’s writing style helped the story flow; it was engaging and entertaining. It had everything: politics, history, emotional conflict, an unusual love story, and main characters that are believable and flawed.
I’m eagerly anticipating reading the second book in the trilogy, The Running Vixen. Highly recommended to fans of historical fiction set at the end of the eleventh / beginning of the twelfth century.