on October 14, 2003
Great historical fiction is my specialty and discovering Nigel Tranter has been a real treat. This the first thing I have read by this author and for me it was also a fine introduction to a crucial period of Scottish history. This 3 part series covers the life of Robert Bruce, a truly dashing and gallant hero if there ever was one, and it is a true rags to riches story. The whole series is well written and though lengthy is a pleasure to read with a medieval feel to it. There are many battle scenes throughout the book, and detailed strategies described, the Scots being so outnumbered by the English had to be very clever to win.
Book 1 - Opens with Bruce in his 20's, a spoiled young nobleman, forced like all the other Scottish nobles to pay homage to Edward of England and be his lackey. Later his meeting with Elizabeth de Burgh, and finally the birth of his ambition.
Book 2 - Hitting rock bottom with the capture and executions of his brothers, the imprisonment of his wife, and his other female relatives kept in cages, he is finally driven into the wilderness to live as a hermit. Eventually, he rises again and is able to unite the many clans and tribes from the northern Highlands with the Norman/Celt mixed nobles from the south to fight together for the common cause of Scotland. Part 2 finishes with the Battle of Bannockburn.
Book 3 - Finally the undisputed King in Scotland though there is still the ongoing struggle to have England recognize Bruce as King of Scotland.
A novel I will enjoy reading again, especially loved the parts about Christina MacRuarie, ruling woman of the isles, also the Highland chiefs and sea captains. So much historical detail with never a dull moment.
on July 7, 1999
I have now read this book 3 times and enjoyed more each time. The book starts with the Scottish throne sitting empty and Edward of England ruling Scotland. The young Earl of Carrick, Robert Bruce and his younger brothers are enjoying the attentions of Edward and living a care free life.
Two events change all this, the Battle of Stirling Bridge, which unites the common Scots people behind a commoner called William Wallace, and the slaying of the Red Comyn at Berwick, on holy church ground. Robert immediately declares himself King of Scots.
What follows is a marvellous account and insight into a remarkable period of Scottish history. The way Tranter protrays Bruce's internal turmoil, of being excomincated from Mother church, worrying over his diseased body and the consist struggle to free Scotland ; the obsession that Edward Plantagent has with crushing Scotland and the hounding of Bruce, keeps the reader's fullest attention.
This book is a must. Superb, excellent, buy it.
on January 21, 1998
I first was introduced to Nigel Tranter when I bought this book in a castle gift shop on a visit to Scotland. On my next visit, I bought every Tranter book I could find as this book was so fabulous! In fact, after reading many, I think it's his best work, and I continually read it again and again. No other book can bring Scotland to life as this does. It allows you to get into the heads of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace like no other book does. You HAVE to read this book! A 10 is not praise enough.
There are many great writers in the field of historical fiction. But there are few storytellers. Storytellers are so much more than a writer. In the Gaelic, they are called seanchaidh and they were the keepers of stories, lore and history of the Clans, the historian, the recorder. When the seanchaidh wove his tales of magick, Auld Gods or warrior-kings of Scotland, he was not recanting something created from his mind; he was passing on oral heritage that was handed down through the ages.
Nigel Tranter was a seanchaidh, and he is sadly missed. Yes, he was a highly successful writer, but he was so much more, and in the tradition of old, he wove many tales of Ancient Scotland as few historians could.
And THE BRUCE TRILOGY is Tranter at his best (a wee bit redundant since Tranter was always at his best). Tranter created the three books of the Trilogy to bring forth the tale of Robert Earl of Carrick who went on to become Robert the King, but he does not just tells the story, he brings Bruce alive for you to meet, to understand. He was a young man caught at the centre of Scotland's struggles. It was a separate country from England, having its own kings since the dawn of time, but Edward Plantagenet - called Edward Longshanks because of his great height and long legs - was determined to unite all of Britain. Two men stood in his way: William Wallace and Robert Bruce. Wallace (see Tranter's THE WALLACE) was a shooting star that lit the conscious mind, giving cry to a national identity Scotland often lacked, since Clan ties and oaths were generally put before homage to the King. Wallace created the spark, in common man and noble alike, that Scotland was a country and would never bow down to the English King. By very nature of whom he was, a commoner, Wallace drew Edward's wrath as no noble ever would, so Wallace's pivotal roll in Scotland's struggle to remain free was cut short. It then fell to Bruce save Scotland, a man in his twenties, who not only had to fight his family's role for him, Edward's attempt to bend him and control him while at English court, but ultimately saw him fighting 2/3 of his own Country due the mighty Clan Comyn's determination to put one of their own on the throne. You feel for Bruce, his loss of his family, the imprisonment of his wife, sister and daughter, jealousy of his brother, and maybe will understand him more as man after reading this. So much power and force behind the man and the story as only Tranter could deliver.
This is a complex history, since Bruce often was seen as serving himself more than Scotland, witnessing him making homage to Edward on four separate occasions. But you learn why Bruce bought his time, played both ends against the middle, and succeeded where Wallace failed. Tranter does not just tell you these events happened, he make you see Bruce the man, not the man who would be king. Tranter opens a door into Scotland's past, and permits you to walk with him, walk with Bruce, not as a historical figure, not a King, but as a man, faults, fears and all.
This is a magick that transcends being a writer, even a very good writer. This is a tale told with wonder, passion and awe by fireside by a seanchaidh.
If you have never read Tranter, I cannot image a better introduction to Scotland's Seanchaidh. Once you read him, you will hungrily devour the rest of his works.
WISE WRITERS AND READERS Recommended Read
on June 22, 1999
I purchased "The Bruce Trilogy" from the Gift Shop at the National Wallace Monument in Stirling, Scotland during a recent visit. I was already learning a tremendous amount about Sir William Wallace but wished to learn more about the complex, mysterious Monarch known as Robert the Bruce. I could not have asked for a better resource. Nigel Tranter's narrative prose takes you from Bruce's early day's as a young Earl still on courting terms with Edward I of England through his transformation into Scotland's Savior and Liberator. I also enjoyed learing about the historical innacuracies surrounding other resources such as the film "Braveheart" of which there were so very many. But most of all, "The Bruce Trilogy" leaves one with a deep appreciation of what the Scots went through and survived as a people and a nation in the face of a level of adversity and aganist odds that could scarcely be imagined--even by today's standard's. Nigel Tranter is truly a gift to the realm of Scotland and the realm of literature alike. A marvelous piece of work.
on September 10, 2003
Although the film Braveheart is tremendously entertaining, it suffers as history. Part of the problem is that it is based on Randall Wallace's book rather than Nigel Tranter's. Nigel Tranter was the pre-eminent historical novelist of Scotland, and although William Wallace's tale is epic, it pales in comparison to the life of Robert the Bruce. Bruce's life is so full of adventure, tragedy, heroism, intrigue, and statesmanship, that any author of fiction would be hard pressed to just imagine the story line ... but this is based on factual events. A must read.
on June 16, 2002
This book is well writtten from beginng to end, very accurate despite the book being fiction. I had real problems putting the book down because of the drama that was Scotland.
This book is a must for history lovers everywhere with romance, murder,wars,backstabbing and man's greed for money above their country.
The bruce shows what live was like in Scotland in the early 13th centuary as brutal and short. It is a reminder of what a major achevement Scotland had against hugely overwhelming odds.
This man put up with every indignities imagineable, including his sister and wife being caged outside for many years.
This is a great read for me as I live near many of places in the book, Melrose Abbey being the main one.
I highly reccomend this book to anyone intrested in war and romance novels. Brillant !!!
on May 10, 2000
Nigel Tranter is one of those exceptional authors that can bring a half remembered (or half forgotten?) legend to life. The depth of his research is apparent as is the feel of and for his country and social conditions prevailing at the time of the story. His coverage of the obvious gaps in history, (caused by Edward's desire to destroy the culture as well as later events that destroyed the records) pass unnoticed. He truly is a master of the genre.
Tranter's story of the Bruce is told with depth, passion and a style that can transport the reader so that they live the story as it unfolds. The characters are superb as are the depictions of the events (political, military and otherwise) leading to the re-establishment of the King of Scots. In all highly commendable.