I like to read classics, historical fiction and world lit. Oh and I love short stories.
The romp continues! The second book in Young's Insurrection trilogy about Robert the Bruce is just as great a read as the first in the series (my review here).
The start of the book is especially strong. Young uses the medieval imagination, full of prophecies, relics and rumors of mysterious orders to the fullest in creating her story. Her use of these (for modern readers - not so much for the medieval mind) fantastical elements together with her clear grasp of the period and the political and military struggle in Schotland, give this story the feel of an epic story, instead of yet another military adventure story set in the Middle Ages. Young did bend a lot of the history in order to tell the story the way she did, though it is all explained in her extensive author's note. For me, it didn't distract from enjoying the novel, but for those who want a more truthful retelling of Robert the Bruce's story it might be a dealbreaker.
Young's writing had me staying up late a couple of nights, turning the pages to see what would happen next. She does know how to entertain! So, why the 3.5 stars for a novel which I clearly enjoyed?
The flaws I noted in the first book of the series - with her descriptions not being as succinct as could be, are also in this novel. I am, for instance, not sure what lines like "Westminster Hall (...) was two hundred and forty feet long" (p. 170) add to calling up the scene. At times, descriptions also get away from her, with lines that make no sense to me, like "the crunching, grating sounds of two armies grinding into one another" (p. 244) (what does that sound like? I don't know. I never heard to armies "grinding into one another")
On top of that, I felt that the occasional hopping to the stories of minor characters greatly distracted from the speed and the excitement of the novel. I felt no connection to any other character apart from Robert (Young could work on giving her minor characters more emotional depth). So for me, reading about other characters really needed to be founded in moving the plot forward. Sometimes I felt that wasn't the case at all. The substory with the king's daughters could have been cut out or greatly reduced, and the battle of the Golden Spurs could have been incorporated in another way instead of describing it in a scene. Nothing as annoying as reading a battle scene in which you have no stakes at all.
The third and final book in this series is expected to be published this year, so I'm looking forward to how Young handles the last part of Robert's story.