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13th century comes alive
am 8. August 2011
I tremendously enjoyed "Insurrection". Quite simply because you delve into the 13th century head-first, into a story that is fast-paced with great, gritty characters who do not follow "their destiny", but find themselves faced with complexities much beyond their control and partly beyond their understanding. Naturally, while Robert the Bruce's ethical dilemma is at the core of the story, antagonists like King Edward are just as multi-facetted, torn and filled with doubt, while having to keep a firm grip on power. Robyn Young turns their many trials, risks and triumphs, defeats and uncertainties into a densely written, highly readable narrative - in short: a page-turner.
As a trained historian and having done a lot of historical research myself, I am always interested in how far a novel can be 'historically accurate' and a riveting tale at the same time. To write a story that grabs you from page one means to take liberties with some historical facts. Robyn Young does what few authors do: she explains which liberties she has taken (very few) and to what effect.
While I am no expert on this period I have to contradict "Daspin": the Arthurian legend was one of the core narratives of court societies in the middle ages and inspired countless knights over centuries - in many countries. To me, history is not a mere sequence of dates and facts, it is a vast river of interwoven themes resurfacing and entwining. Indeed, there is an esoteric theme in this book and there should be: after all, people at that time believed in unicorns and the holy grail. It was a time when Christianity had long become the dominant religion, but mythology, ancient rites and pantheistic traditions still existed on the fringes of society. History is a country of the past and this telling of Robert the Bruce's story did to me what few books achieve: I felt the mud, the battles, the struggles, the friendship and betrayal, I understood the people. And I dare you to find me an account of the battle of Falkirk, for example, that is just as acurate and more gripping to read.
If you're looking for an historical novel to immerse yourself in: this is it.