on 18 October 2010
This is a novel about politics, successions within the nobility and the bid for Royal thrones. These central themes are woven into the period of time broadly labelled as the `Wars of Scottish Independence' and involve famous historical people including William Wallace, Robert Bruce and Edward Longshanks.
You may be wondering at this point one of two things; one, `well that sounds like all the ingredients for an interesting non-fiction historical study' or two, `I hope this is not a cheap rendition of "Braveheart" in the form of a book'. In response to the first point, I can definitely say that this is first and foremost a fictional novel set within the historical fiction genre. Robyn Young's writing style is compelling and fully dimensional. For example, she gently leads you into the story before unleashing the required history and knowledge of the local alliances and enmities necessary for a complete understanding of the background to the novel. In this way, you are fully immersed within the story and hardly notice the gradual inclusion of history which would probably put off a new reader if listed in its entirety at the beginning. In answer to the second point, this is certainly not a rehashed rendition of the famously historically inaccurate "Braveheart". Wallace, Bruce and Edward are completely different people within `Insurrection'. To me they appeared to be more balanced, grounded and possess a full range of human emotions in comparison to their relatively one sided cinematic counterparts. In addition to this statement, you will get the sense from reading the novel and then seeing the select bibliography at the end of the book that `Insurrection' is thoroughly well researched.
One of Robyn Young's main attractions to the historical fiction fan is her ability to create a cast of unique, engaging characters combined with the way she draws the reader into the tale. Certain events and passages within this book can be related to personal experiences within the reader's own life which makes the book appear relevant and creates a desire to continue reading in order to discover what happened to their adopted character. This is a difficult skill to hone and you will see many other authors within this field who have tried and failed to capture this essence of relevance and reader/character comparison, leaving books which are emotionless and sterile.
I can certainly state that the historical fiction fan will devour this book at a rapid rate of knots within a couple of sittings, it's that good. Robyn Young to me is an exciting relatively new author who is a breath of fresh air in a crowded genre. Her writing is simplistic and therefore engrossing, but well researched and consequently highly interesting. This is a fabulous new novel and I cannot recommend it highly enough to those of you who like me, love a dam good historical adventure.
Whether you are English, Scottish or Welsh, `Insurrection' is a book which can be read and enjoyed by all and which I believe portrays the interests of each country at this period of time in a balanced manner (as far as the history and known facts will allow!).
I had enjoyed Robyn Young's trilogy on the Knights Templar (although, if I am honest, the third book was a bit disappointing compared with the others) so I was eager to see what she made of the Scottish Wars of Independence. I was pleased to see that she was focusing on Robert Bruce, rather than William Wallace, as the Bruce, as well as actually becoming king (although not in this first book) is a more interesting character than Wallace.
Robert Bruce is particularly interesting because he equivocated so much over his support for rebellion against the English occupation of Scotland, notwithstanding his own claim to the throne. It is especially hard to understand quite why he kept changing his loyalties, despite the obvious reasons of pragmatism and self-interest. Robyn Young tries to get to the bottom of this ambiguity in his character, and does it rather well - while it might not answer the question historically, it is a shrewd attempt to get to the bottom of the Bruce's motivations.
Young manages the complex politics of the period well, and keeps the reader interested. The Bruce clan's feud with their well-known enemies, the Comyns, is believable and sustained, as is Robert Bruce's difficult relationship with his father, who retired to his Essex estates rather than take part in the insurrection against Edward I.
One has to feel sorry for Edward I, though. He was vainglorious, greedy, mercurial, mendacious and opportunistic, true enough; but Robyn Young does seem to have it in for him - in the Templar trilogy he was very much a villain, and in this book she attributes a murder to him for which there is no evidence (although it works well for the plotting of the story) - he had enough blood on his hands without some twenty-first century author laying more bodies at his feet!
But that isn't really a criticism. The book is well-paced, historically accurate where it needs to be, with enough fictitious elements to supplement the real story without damaging it. The battle scenes are visceral and believable, and the characters are well enough rounded to make it thoroughly believable.
At the risk of sounding condescending: well done! I look forward to the next in the series, which I assume will take us at least up to Bruce's assumption of the throne, if not beyond.
on 11 August 2014
In the 13th century King Edward the First of England has conquered Wales and now sets his sights on Scotland. After the convenient death of the Scottish King Edward invades and sets up a new puppet monarch. The Scottish nobles are not happy but fight amongst themselves. One family of powerful nobles with a claim to the throne are the Bruce family and this book follows the story of Robert Bruce from childhood through service to the king and finally through to exile after supporting William Wallace.
As this is the 700th anniversary of the battle of Bannockburn there has been much about Bruce in the media and as someone with an interest in medieval history I thought to give this book a go. It's a weighty tome and obviously well-researched but it just didn't grab my attention as much as it could have done. The difficulty with historical fiction is melding fictional characterisation to historical facts and that is where Young's writing falls down for me. However I have bought the second book in the series so I will continue the story!
on 29 October 2010
"It was the voice of God. And God was furious."
Insurrection is the first in a new trilogy, centering on the adventures of Robert the Bruce, and it follows on from the same author's outstanding Templar series The Brethren trilogy. And on the evidence of this first book in the new series, it might even be going to outdo Brethren. It's that good.
The story is massive, with a large cast of characters, both Scottish and English (and French and Norwegian, come to think of it) - one of the strengths of this novel is that it tells the story from both sides, so we read almost as much of Edward I and his court, as we do of the Scots. The times were brutal for Scotland, especially for any who didn't fancy being subjects for the English. What Bruce offered his people was a sense of unity, purpose and pride. William Wallace appears, but it's Robert who is the true leader and the genius of the Scottish rebel cause.
The story is handled with immense skill, the battlescenes breathtakingly vivid (Stirling Bridge, to name but one, and Falkirk) and I thought the characters all rich and involving. Robert is at this stage in his life still quite young - he's only 23 at the end of Insurrection, and we'll no doubt see him growing more mature and experienced in the next two books, much as Will did in the Brethren trilogy. Edward I is a rich, nuanced 'villain' if villain is quite the right word. There are various intriguing subplots including an Arthurian prophecy, and more than a dash of romance - personally I prefer the more adventurous side of the story, and I can't stress it enough: this novel delivers in spades. There are also some nice touches of humour. I particularly enjoyed a rather blackly comic incident involving some solders attacked by wasps. You'll have to read it yourself to see what I mean!
All in all: five stars. I only wish I hadn't read it so fast, and now I am going to have to wait ages for the next novel in the series. Maybe I'll go back and read the Brethren books all over again in the meantime!
on 29 April 2014
This is the first novel in the "Insurrection" trilogy books covering the Scottish Wars of Independence.
"Insurrection" is a novel about English and Scottish politics, successions within the nobility and the bid for Scottish Royal thrones. Familiar historical people included in the novel include William Wallace and Robert Bruce.
I found the book rather confusing at the start - not having any knowledge of this particular period in history but as the book progressed any initial confusion was left behind and I began to thoroughly enjoy the book. The list of characters both fictional and real along with a family tree at the back of the book helped as did the way Robyn Young wrote the story.
The story starts in 1286 with the death of King Alexander III and follows the fight by all parties for the right to wear the Scottish Crown. The book also encompasses King Edward I attempts to quash the 1294-1295 revolt of the Welsh led by Madog ap Llywelyn.
This book is historical fiction at its best. The battle scenes are so realistic you can smell the spilt blood and it feels like that you are actually there the descriptions are so vivid!
I will definitely be reading the next 2 books in the series - this book has bought to life a period in history that has been a bit neglected by contemporary historical fiction which seems to prefer the War of the Roses, Roman times and Tudor/Elizabethan times.
on 19 July 2012
Insurrection sets out to bring one of Scotland's great hero kings out of the murk of history and give him character and motive and in this book, the first of a Trilogy, it succeeds very well. It starts with 10 year old Robert Bruce undergoing military training for knighthood from a sadistic Sergeant at Arms on an Ayrshire beach in Scotland, providing an early example of Robyn Young's passion for settings and historical detail in which this novel is steeped. So if you like your historical fiction to take you into the violent world of knightly combat, skirmish, battle and political skulduggery then this is a novel for you. This particular part of the Trilogy is a little short on thirteenth century domestic detail and romantic liaison but then insurrection, even today, is not a background against which the softer elements of life tend to flourish! Poor Robert might manage a satisfactory relationship sometime during the next volume of the Trilogy which I look forward to reading. And I understand Number 3 is in the pipeline so there is much to anticipate from Robyn Young's fertile keyboard and we should all have a much more vivid impression of King Robert de Brus - the victor of the battle which, in the words of Scotland's anthem, sent Proud Edward's army `homeward, to think again'.
on 22 June 2012
From the author of the Brethren Trilogy (Brethren, Crusade and Requiem) about a young Templar knight who comes of age, Insurrection is a new historical sequel and a must have addition to your collection. War has ended following the death of the King of Scotland and the question of who will succeed the throne lingers, as those individuals fight against those who are powerful and greedy for what is deemed to be right. This new beginning to a new trilogy by a masterful writer, introduces you to a whole new era and characters within a most atmospheric setting. The historical realism to Robyn Young's work is breathtaking; hence you feel ultimately a part of her work within a world and era that is brought vividly to life. This sweeping adventure is action packed and full of gut wrenching violence, which is thoroughly gripping and exciting. The remarkable accuracy of historical detail is outstanding, bringing the Crusades to life before your very eyes. This is an epic tale of war, intrigue and heroism that is truly captivating with a richly dense plot and memorable characters. Those readers who love historical fiction containing epic battle scenes within works such as those by Conn Iggulden, Bernard Cornwell and Michael Jecks will absolutely love Insurrection and also the Brethren trilogy.
on 21 October 2012
Robin Young has not disappointed her readers , as usual! There is a severe problem with this book: You can only read it when you are on holidays, as it is absolutely impossible to put it down before the end! You will have to read through the fights, the emotional struggles and the intense atmosphere while you do your cooking, ironing, work on the computer or talk to somebody, so before you end up being the rudest person in the world you better not open the book as long as you really have got the time to read it :-) !
on 29 June 2011
Robyn Young's writing gets better and better. She has a unique ability to transport you back in time yet retain modern resonance so that the character could be you and you can live the adventure. The Brethren trilogy was a brilliant start, with speed of action and thought matched by historical authenticity so that at all times, even though the ride is kaleidoscopic and hair-raising, you always feel you are in safe hands. The first Robert Bruce book - Insurrection - shows a growing maturity as a writer and I feel is her best yet. The scale of slaughter and the terrible uncertainly of those times takes the narrative beyond swashbuckle into poignant reality. I found Bruce himself excellently portrayed as complex, clever, moody and very human. The transference of fictional hero (Will in Brethren) to actual historical (Bruce) marks a milestone on Robyn's Young writing and gives it the breadth and depth of a modern classic.
2 books on the shelf...Robert Low and Robyn Young, both about the same period and hero, which do i read...? well i chose this one and im glad i did, what a great read.
You always know with Robyn Young you are going to get a well researched title, i have not always been sold on the pace of the books, but this one is fantastic, sights sounds, smells all there to transport you back to this period in history. Plenty of back story to help the reader know the subjects but without the text book grind that some of these titles can suffer with.
I really felt part of the story and Robyn made me feel the English were the enemy...and im as English as they come (well half Irish..but certainly not scottish) i was rooting for our Hero every step of the way, and his pain was my pain, this for me is always the mark of great writing, the ability to make you part of ths story rather than a bystander.
Highly reccomend this one
Product Description (Taken from the back of the book)
1286 A.D. Scotland is in the grip of the worst winter in living memory. Some say the Day of Judgement has come.
The king of Scotland rides out from Edinburgh into the stormy dark. On the road he is murdered by one of his own men, leaving the succession to the throne wide open. The king's death is as a stone thrown into a pool, the ripples spreading far and wide. Civil war threatens as powerful Scottish families jostle for power, not knowing that Edward, now king of England, has set his own plans in motion.
For almost two decades Edward has nurtured a fierce vision of conquest - a vision sprung from the words of an ancient prophecy - that will change the face of Britain forever.
But all is not destined to go Edward's way. Through the ashes of war, through blood feuds and divided loyalties, a young squire will rise to defy England's greatest king. His name is Robert the Bruce. And his story begins in INSURRECTION.