Swords and savagery…
😐 😐 😐
Seven years have passed since the end of The Lion at Bay – seven long years for Sir Hal of Herdmanston, held captive under sentence of death, and longer yet for his love, Isabel MacDuff, kept in a cage on the walls of Berwick Castle. It’s now 1314, Edward Longshanks is dead and his son Edward II wants one decisive battle to rid himself of the humiliation of the Scots’ rebellion and to free himself of the constrictions placed on him by his own rebellious barons. Robert the Bruce has gradually taken control of more of Scotland but though crowned King, is not yet recognised as such abroad nor in full control of the country. Nor is he sure that he wants to take on the full might of Edward’s army with a much smaller force, short of armour and weaponry. It will depend in part on whether Hal can succeed in the mission the King sets him…
Low is skilled at weaving fact and fiction together well enough so that it is hard to see the joins. The first part of the book concentrates on Hal’s mission and shows both sides preparing for the battle to come. The second half is mainly concerned with the battle itself. Low’s descriptions of the horrors of this kind of combat always ring appallingly true and he never stints in telling us of the disgusting, almost sub-human conditions endured by the fighting men on both sides. Too much so, for my personal preference – I would have liked to have seen the balance tip more in favour of the politics and personalities. But I accept that the concentration on fighting, gore and death is what Low does and he does it very well.
I was disappointed that in this third book Low has toned down the use of Scots dialect even more than in the second one, to the extent that no glossary is provided or needed. I assume this was done to make the books appeal more to Low’s existing readership. However the language and politics in the first book, The Lion Wakes, were what lifted it above average for me. Without these, this one is really not much more than a well-written sword and savagery tale. An enjoyable enough read for fans of the genre, but overall I’m afraid the series didn’t live up to the high hopes I had for it.