First fiction by New York financier Bruce, who unfolds the story of Scotland’s great medieval warrior and king Robert the Bruce (1274–1329).
The Scots, like the Irish, have a history that is dominated by a succession of wars, raids, routs, battles, plots, and uprisings against the English—most of which, unhappily, they lost. Robert the Bruce was one of their big-time winners. Descended from a Norman knight who crossed the Channel with William the Conqueror, and was repaid for his services with Scottish lands, Robert grew up in a Scotland that was dominated by the English crown despite (or perhaps because of) the great diversity of peoples (Norman, Saxon, Irish, Scottish, etc.) living within its borders. His tale is told here through the eyes of one David Crawford, a lad from Dumfries who became Robert’s page after witnessing him murder his erstwhile ally Red Comyn in 1306. David is also present when, not long after, Robert is crowned King of Scotland. Forced to flee to Ireland to evade the armies of England’s Edward I (to whom he had once sworn an oath of fealty), Robert returns to Scotland in 1307 and leads a successful attack on Edward’s forces at the Battle of Loudoun Hill. This marks a turning point in Scotland’s fortunes, for now the English are on the defensive, forced into hiding in remote castles, and Edward himself soon dies while fleeing the Scottish advance. His son Edward II tries to win back his father’s losses but is defeated even more decisively at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and the English are finally forced to recognize Scotland’s independence in the Treaty of Northampton, which also accepts Robert’s claim to the throne of Scotland. The Bruce reigns unopposed for years thereafter and, after a lifetime of warfare, dies peacefully in his bed.
The history is everything here, so if you are a Scot or a Scotophile you will not be the least bit disappointed by the rather clunky narration and two-dimensional hagiography that prevails.