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Bruce, Longshanks and Hal of Herdmanston return...,
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This review is from: The Lion at Bay (The Kingdom Series) (Kindle Edition)
Following on from The Lion Wakes, this book continues the story of Hal, laird of Herdmanston, caught up in the Bruce rebellion against Edward Longshanks.
Though fictionalised, the story is based on the actual events of the times and with a good degree of historical accuracy. Low relishes describing the horror of combat and in this bloody period of history he can and does give full rein to his imagination - each death, and there are many of them, is more gruesome than the last. Low is also a master at conveying the barbaric conditions of the time: the filth, the smells, the disease. As was true of the time, the lives of the fighting men are hard and often short, while the women are almost entirely subservient to their fathers or husbands. Mixed in with the fighting and politics is the continued story of Hal's love, Countess Isabel, who is based on a true character. Strong and wilful, Isabel has defied her powerful husband and he is now seeking revenge on both her and Hal.
Low writes well and powerfully and, while the book is laced with Scottish dialect, I feel this has been toned down quite a bit since the first book and should be more easily accessible to non-Scots. There is a glossary of Scots terms, though, if needed, and also a list of characters telling which are real and which fictional. I would suggest reading this after the book since it includes a potted history of some of the real characters which could be plot spoilers for anyone who doesn't know the ins and outs of the history of this period.
Overall, I found this a very enjoyable read - perhaps just a little bit too much fighting and gore for my personal taste, and as a Scot I missed the wonderful use of dialect and distinctive speech patterns of the first book though I understand the difficulties they caused some readers - but giving a real sense of the politics and personalities of the time, particularly Bruce and King Edward. I look forward to the next in the series. Recommended.