*I received a free ARC of this book with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
RECIPIENT OF THE B.R.A.G. MEDALLION
Blurb: James Douglas vows to avenge his father’s murder.
Isabelle MacDuff prays to escape a fate worse than death.
As the 14th century dawns, their fellow Scots scrap over the empty throne. Seizing the opportunity to enlarge his kingdom, the brutal Edward Longshanks of England invades his weakened neighbor to the north.
Yet one young warrior–who will become feared by his enemies as the Black Douglas–stands in the path of three Plantagenet monarchs.
Their clans are sworn rivals, but James pursues the ravishing Isabelle, whose forefathers for centuries have inaugurated kings on the hallowed Stone of Destiny. Their world is upturned when James befriends Robert Bruce, a bitter foe of the MacDuffs. Both James and Isabelle must make agonizing decisions that will draw the armies to the bloody field of Bannockburn.
Here is the story of the remarkable events following the execution of William Wallace of Braveheart fame. Set during the Bruce wars of independence, The Spider and the Stone is the unforgettable saga of the star-crossed love, religious intrigue, fierce friendship in arms, and heroic sacrifice that preserved Scotland’s freedom during its time of greatest peril.
The Spider and the Stone is an epic and immersive fictional account of the Wars of Scottish Independence in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.
Following, and heroising, the exploits and trials of James ‘Black’ Douglas and Robert Bruce (of spider fame) as they try to free Scotland of the English reign of Edward I ‘Longshanks’ Plantagenet and his cruel henchman.
The narrative is fully sympathetic to the Scots cause and the English are portrayed as vacuous, lascivious, bloodthirsty or cowardly. However the author also balances the scales by vividly showing the Scottish in-fighting and jostling for land and position; some turning in whichever the way the wind blows their fortunes best.
There is an overarching theme here of loyalty. Where a man/woman’s loyalty lies and how far they will go in its name. There are conflicts here between religion, country, king (not necessarily the same as country!), family, love, friendship and tradition; all-powerful ties and each in opposition at various points in the narrative. Our main characters have to choose which loyalty they hold dearest, and pay the price in loss of the others.
The story covers almost a full lifetime, from Jamie Douglas’ childhood to his end, framed by the telling of his ‘truth’ to his ancestor by one who knew him well, the She-Wolf, Isabella, English Queen from France. The story touches on the peaks and troughs of events, skipping swathes of time in order to keep the narrative tension, touching on a mixture of political intrigue, personal relationships, and muddy action-packed battles. A bit of something for everyone!
Glen Craney brings this history to living, breathing, sympathetic life, so that you see the events unfolding and hold your breath that your favourites make it out of their many scrapes. I particularly favoured Sweeny, Belle and (of course) Black Douglas himself, and was so anxious on their behalf that I actually exclaimed aloud at some points in the plot, and shed a few tears at others.
Definitely recommended for fans of historical fiction, but also for anyone who enjoys a well-written, far-ranging story with actions, adventure and a bit of romance.
Isabella tapped the floor with the poker to reclaim their attention. She scratched a mark on the southeastern region of her map to indicate the location of a port city at the eastern crease where Scotland and England met. “Four years before this century turned, your throne fell empty and the clans commenced scrapping for it like charnel dogs over a carcass. Amid it all, the Leopard of England stalked the Borders, sniffing blood and champing to pounce when the Lion of Caledonia fell lame from self-inflicted wounds.”
The two men, beguiled by the strangeness of her bardic inflections, edged closer to better hear her.
“But one runt of a lad, inspired by a headstrong maid from Fife, would not sit prey for an easy clawing.”
Isabella stabbed at the crackling log as if gutting a combatant, forcing the earl to shield his eyes from the flying embers. She stared at the flames — was she scrying a memory vision? — and lowered her voice to a whisper taut with emotion. “Nay, sit prey Jamie Douglas would not. The stars had destined him to stalk the stalker.”
– Glen Craney, The Spider and the Stone
You can buy The Spider and the Stone right now at Amazon and other good book shops.