Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Spider and The Stone: A Novel of Scotland's Black Douglas by Glen Craney: A Book Review

The Spider and The Stone: A Novel of Scotland’s Black Douglas
Author: Glen Craney
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Brigid’s Fire Press
Release Date: 2013
Pages: 433
Source:  This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: As the 14th century dawns, Scotland’s survival hangs by a spider’s thread. While the Scot clans scrap over their empty throne, the brutal Edward Longshanks of England invades the weakened northern kingdom, scheming to annex it to his realm.

     But one frail, dark-skinned lad stands in the Plantagenet monarch’s path.

     The beleaguered Scots cherish him as their "Good Sir James." In England, his slashing raids deep into Yorkshire and Northumbria wreak such terror that he is branded the Black Douglas with a reward placed on his head.

     As a boy, James falls in love with the ravishing Isabelle MacDuff, whose clan for centuries has inaugurated Scottish monarchs on the hallowed Stone of Destiny. But his world is upturned when he befriends Robert Bruce, a bitter enemy of the MacDuffs. Forced to choose between love and clan loyalty, James and Isabelle make fateful decisions that will draw the opposing armies to the bloody field of Bannockburn.

     Isabelle will crown a king. James will carry a king's heart. Both now take their rightful places with Robert Bruce, Rob Roy, and William Wallace in the pantheon of Scot heroes.

     Here is the story of Scotland’s War of Independence and the remarkable events that followed the execution of Wallace, whose legend was portrayed in the movie Braveheart. This thrilling epic leads us to the miraculous Stone of Destiny, to the famous Spider in the Cave, to the excommunicated Knights Templar, to the suppressed Culdee Church, and to the unprecedented Declaration of Arbroath, the stirring oath document that inspired the American Declaration of Independence four hundred years later.

     The Spider and the Stone is the unforgettable saga of the star-crossed love, religious intrigue, and heroic sacrifice that saved Scotland during its time of greatest peril.

     My review: Edward Longshanks, the king of England, has invaded Scotland. Scottish subjects had suffered severely from the English tyranny. With the death of William Wallace, also known as Braveheart, many had lost hope of Scotland ever being free. However, two people, James Douglas and Isabella MacDuff, fight to defy the English, and to place their own king, Robert the Bruce, on the  Scottish throne. This inspires the Scottish people to take up arms against the English, and to fight for their independence.

     The two main characters in this novel are James Douglas and Isabella MacDuff. James is furious against the English when they killed his father for treason because of fighting with William Wallace, and sacked his home. He decides to work under Bishop Lamberton because the bishop is a staunch fighter for Scotland’s independence, and chooses his best friend, Robert the Bruce, as his rightful king. He also holds a loyal and unwavering love for Isabella.

     Isabella is a MacDuff, and the Scottish contract states that a MacDuff chooses who is to be the King of Scotland. Because of her lineage, Isabella was born to be a pivotal pawn to those who covet the Scottish crown. However, Isabella takes matters into her own hands and decide the destiny of Scotland. She is strong-willed and very outspoken. She is not afraid to stand up against the English king. She is also very compassionate and selfless and would often sacrifice her own happiness for those of others. She has deep love for James because she is willing to leave her husband and family to be with James and his cause.

     The story is very well-written. The setting of Scotland is very lush, and their culture and history comes alive. James is a classic underdog, who the readers root for to save Scotland. His friendship with Robert the Bruce is very realistic and true. While their friendship was complicated with a few fallouts, they never stopped being friends. They trusted each other and believed in each other. I also loved the romance between James and Isabella. Their star-crossed romance was very reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet.

     Overall, this book is filled with hope, friendship, forbidden love, and their patriotic love to their country. The message of the book is to never given up even if it seems impossible. I also like how the story showed it was the strength of the Scottish women that helped the men win their independence. The characters are very complicated, and the setting is beautiful. While there are some scenes that seem unnecessary and the plot is slow-paced and often drawn out, the story is worth reading because the story itself comes alive. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Scottish history, culture, or anyone who is interested in the after events of William Wallace. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



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