This is the first of Robyn Young’s books I have read but it won’t be the last. It is historical fiction of the highest order.
I must confess to not knowing much about Robert the Bruce. This novel tells the story of a complex man caught in a maelstrom of events which shaped his life and, eventually, that of two kingdoms.
Robyn Young is a fine writer who weaves plot and character in a subtle and satisfying manner.
Bruce is forged by history and then goes on to forge it. The young Bruce is confronted with conflicts of loyalty and ambition which others may not have considered conflicts at all. The fact that he did consider them so, and the decisions he makes regarding them, stem from his own complex character. They also contribute to his development both as a man and a leader.
There is much good writing in the book. Here is one acutely observed description I can’t resist quoting. ‘The weapon was sticky with blood, the smell of it like old pennies held too long in the hand.’ Young is adept at using senses to evoke an era which was both fresher and more squalid than today.
The novel darts back and forth in time which I don’t much care for and which I don’t think adds much to plot or narrative. I liked the idea that Edward used the prophecies of Merlin as a motive for his brutal invasions of Wales and Scotland. However, I imagine that he would have used the prophecies as a cloak for his naked ambition. Except that maybe Edward knew deep down that the best way to delude others is to delude oneself first.
There are some excellent supporting characters in this novel and I look forward to reading more about them as much as about Bruce himself.
I would have loved to give this book 4.5 stars but will have to content myself with 4 stars instead.
I have quoted from Robyn Young as the title of this piece because I believe it sums up the novel so exactly.
I look forward to reading the sequel which is out in August 2012.