Given that Scotland will be voting over independence in two days, it’s fitting that I’ve just finished Robyn Young’s Renegade, the second novel in a trilogy about Robert Bruce. Bruce is possibly Scotland’s most famous King who famously won the Battle of Bannockburn over the English in the 14th century. He was also in Braveheart, as the Scottish noble who supported William Wallace, then betrayed him and got him captured by the English, this last part being fabricated.
The novel starts off in Ireland, where Bruce is searching for a holy staff, Ireland’s main Biblical artifact that the English King Edward I is desperate for in a bid to hold all four holy artifacts of Britain to uphold his right to rule the entire land. As I didn’t read the first novel, I missed much of how he got there, but suffice it to say things are not looking good for him or the Scots. The English have the upper hand on the Scots, who are struggling but still resisting led by William Wallace and Robert Comyn. Eventually Bruce finds the staff, but is captured and eventually returned to Scotland, where he ends up back in England as one of Edward I’s knights.
Bruce, you see, served Edward when he was younger before turning “traitor” and going back to fight for Scotland. But this return is part of an intricate scheme concocted by Bruce to regain the trust of Edward, while secretly trying to expose Edward’s false claims relating to the holy artifacts and lead an uprising. Edward has by this time crushed the Scottish resistance and even captures Wallace, who is then executed brutally, being hung, drawn (having his insides carved up while alive) and quartered (having his corpse be cut into four pieces). Of course, the holy artifact claim is probably artistic license taken by the author, though the artifacts and much of the events including Wallace’s death are real.
The writing is fine, while the action and history are described in elegant but not overly complicated or prose. Many of the characters are a bit weak, though Edward I is indeed menacing and formidable as he was in reality. Wallace and Comyn are portrayed well though, and it is interesting to see the squabbling and interfighting that plagues the Scots. It seems there are too many characters, especially minor Scottish nobles and knights, and Bruce’s brothers are not given major roles.
I enjoy historical novels a lot, especially about ancient military figures and warfare, and Robyn Young is possibly the best historical novelist I’ve ever read. I know Young from reading her Templar trilogy, which started off in the Middle East where European Crusaders are battling the Muslims and continues in Europe after the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin.
In reality, I don’t have anything but respect for the United Kingdom and Scotland. Whether the Scots vote for independence or to remain in the UK, I’ll be glad for them. The Scots deserve a chance to gain independence, and the UK is admirable for allowing the Scots to vote in the referendum. I hope whatever the outcome, there’ll be peace and order.