I have read Robyn Young's series on the Templars, with rather mixed feelings, as she can be very wordy, so I thought I would try her new novel as a talking book.
The book is set in the period of Edward I, 'The Hammer of the Scots', and deals with the quelling of insurrection in Wales, and in Scotland. (Edward was inclined to feel that Scotland should not be an independent kingdom). It is a time when Scottish lords were often Norman barons, owning lands in Scotland and England, with very divided loyalties. It is the period of King John Baliol, William Wallace and the main character of this book, Robert the Bruce.
It moves backwards and forwards in time to explain the development of the situation, and this can at times be confusing, but as you get into the book, this becomes clearer.
The gore is not spared! This was a time when the north of England was left as a wasteland-a scorched eart policy with a vengeance. It isn't how one thinks of 'chivalrous knights'. After the battle of Stirling Bridge, Wallace ordered 'No quarter', and the English were horrified to find this meant that the knights weren't spared for ransom as was usual. Yet this was done to avenge the thousands of civilians Edward had ordered killed when Berwick was taken.
The development of the character of Robert the Bruce from a lad, at odds with his father, is well drawn. He has a claim to the Scots throne through his descent from Malcolm Canmore, but other than feeling aggrieved that Edward supports Baliol, does not see for a long time that he is failing in his duty by not supporting Scottish independence.
It is a thought provoking book about a period that is little known to English readers, although I seem to have read quite a bit over the years as I live in this 'debateable land'
Nick McArdle does a wonderful job as the narrator-very important when you are listening for over 20 hours.
Another very bloody Cato and Macro novel, set in a part of Britain where Roman rule is tenuous, and the "Roman" troops are themselves from fairly barbaric tribes.
The two think they have jumped out of the frying pan that their service to the Imperial secretary and freedman, Narcissus, has tied them in for the last few years. Back to military service they find that the frying pan sat on a rather dangerous fire.
It does come across a bit like a guide book at times - Brown seems to have a list of places that would make a good location in one of his books, and tell us about it; it either helps visualise the place or reminds you of it if you have been there, so not such a problem. Other than that he condenses a lot of action into a very short time frame, and I wish I could travel as far in such a short time - although Langdon doesn't actually have much time to enjoy himself. When does he eat, etc.!
Quite interesting ethical considerations, some unexpected twists, and a feeling of satisfaction in that I had worked out the final location at a very early stage, meant that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this.