This is an excellent book by Peter Reese detailing the tragic battle of Flodden where King James the IV's Scottish army was defeated by the northern army of England commanded by Thomas Howard, the Earl of Surrey. The story is seen from the perspective of both armies and their leaders, Scotland's Stuart monarch- arguably the most successful and competent of that royal family- and on the opposing side, King Henry the eighth of England's loyal servant with his northern levies.
Reese portrays the campaign and subsequent defeat of the larger and more powerful Scottish army as a needless tragedy brought about by James's over-ambitious desire to 'teach Henry a lesson' following the English king's high-handed arrogance and aggression he frequently displayed to his northern neighbours. The author clearly makes the point that this aggression was by no means one-sided and James himself comes across as somewhat rash, (despite his obvious successes in ruling his country)uncompromising and (surprisingly) slightly naive. Reese's vivid description of the battle itself, the tactics employed by the rival armies and the terrain it was fought over is first-class and the reader is left in no doubt that the Scottish king with his French military advisors was seriously outclassed by the highly competent Surrey. Reese argues persuasively that the defeat at Flodden opened the gates for Scotland's gradual weakening as a military power and ultimate loss of an independent monarchy despite the fact that the first king of the united kingdoms was in fact a Scottish king.
The pace of the book is fast, suitably so, and the style informative whilst not neglecting any detail necessary to tell the whole story of why James risked so much on what was sadly so little. Perhaps a part of the tragedy is that this Scottish army was representative of all of it's people, Highland or Lowland, united in common loyalty to their king and country in a cause which really did not deserve such sacrifice. The author clearly describes exact events and decisions taken which led to the Scots losing a battle they really ought to have won had they been better led.
Excellent diagrams(of battle manoeuvers and marches)and an extremely helpful modern day guide to any who wish to follow the routes of the contending armies or simply to visit the muddy slopes of Branxton are contained within the text.
All in all an absolutely superb work by Peter Reese, superior in most aspects to Niall Barr's book on the same subject.