The book opens with a vivid, brutal, no-holds-barred account of the Battle of Bannockburn, just outside Stirling in Scotland, where King Robert and his motley army of Scots overcame the vastly superior army of King Edward the Second. Written in present tense using the voice of King Edward, the prologue is at once harrowing and terrifying as the King of England sees his invincible army swept away, leaving him in mortal danger of capture. And thus is set the scene for the rest of the book as the author leads us from Robert’s greatest defeat to this shining pinnacle of his success.
We join Robert where we left him at the end of ‘The Crown in the Heather’, bowed and battered, penniless, without an army and with very little hope after his crushing defeat at Balqhidder. If he is to succeed, he needs money and a strategy to unite the warring families of Scotland. His stoutest ally, James Douglas, has his own demons to fight. To Robert’s strategic leadership he adds his skill as a tactician. Sasson shows these two threads as the two men claw their way back to a position where they can once again tackle the Eternal Enemy – England.
Meanwhile, Longshanks, scourge of the Scots, loses his final battle and is succeeded by his petulant, self-centred son, Edward II. While the Scots scrabble to rebuild, Edward brawls with his Lords. The author draws a sensitive portrait of Edward and his love for Piers Gaveston as well as his strained relationship with his beautiful French wife, Isabella. As in ‘The Crown in the Heather’, the story is told in the first person from the points of view of these three, very different, men.
Once again, Sasson takes the reader there, to the wind-swept hills of Scotland where Robert runs for his life, to the islands of the Irish Sea, to London where Edward I, in one of his last acts of malicious cruelty, commits his outrageous act against Robert’s women. The description is vivid, the attention to detail meticulous.
This is a first class book. I look forward to reading the final chapter. Find it at Amazon and all good online book stores.