11 Aug 2011



James IV of Scotland was the most charismatic, but also the most doomed, of the Stewart family to sit on the Scottish throne. Brilliantly clever, handsome and daring, he disdained his brother-in-law, Henry VIII of England, and set out on a flimsy excuse to inflict a resounding defeat on Scotland's ancient enemy.

He almost succeeded. On September 9th, 1513, he and his invading army of fifty thousand men stood on Braxton Heights near Flodden and faced an English army of over twenty-five thousand.

Told from several different perspectives, from the King himself to Lucy, a young tearaway, the fateful battle is described in fascinating and heart-rending detail. Few households in the south of Scotland did not lose at least one man that terrible day. The Scottish nation never recovered.
...... Inner front cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): Tall and thin, dressed in a dark cloak and a black bonnet with a wilting plume, he strode past the darkened booths around St Giles and headed down Edinburgh's deserted High Street.

MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 100): The shadows from the flickering candles made her eyes sink black in their sockets and her nose jutted out like the prow of a ship. She looked like the carved effigy from the top of a tomb.


Though I love my historical fiction I haven't read a lot of books about James IV of Scotland and I certainly haven't come across author Elisabeth McNeill before - what did I think of this her 22nd stand-alone novel?

Disappointing just about says it all. No doubt very historically accurate, I just didn't like the author's style of writing which was so matter of fact and passionless (yes, even the battle scenes)that it bordered on being totally boring, the 198 pages (201 if you count the Afterword) seeming much longer. 

Seemingly better at writing female characters than male, there is really only one individual who sticks out in my mind, Isabella Hoppringle, abbess of Coldstream Abbey. What a fascinating character, obviously well researched, Elisabeth McNeill paints a wonderfully vivid picture of a woman who actually lived which, to me, goes some way to preventing this book from being a total flop.

Ex-library stock, this was the 59th book read in my 100+ Reading Challenge.


Arti said...

The plot seemed good, but alas! everything fizzled out due to bad writing...
Hope you are having a great week :)

Kelly said...

I, too, have read many historical fiction and have never heard of this author. There are too many good ones out there that I still want to read to take a chance on this one. I always appreciate your reviews, though.

Dorte H said...

A pity it wasn´t better.

Erratic Thoughts said...

I am not a big fan of historical fiction,but some Authors write like a beauty...will keep in mind your review when I decide to buy my next historical fiction...