After reading Renegade earlier this year (the second of Robyn Young’s three novels on Robert the Bruce), I decided to move quickly on to the third and final volume, Kingdom. Having had my interest piqued in this period of Scottish history, I wanted to read The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter and possibly Nigel Tranter’s Bruce trilogy – but it made sense to finish with this trilogy first to avoid confusion!
Kingdom continues Robert’s story, picking up where Renegade left off. It’s 1306 and Robert Bruce has been crowned King of Scots at last, the other claimants to the throne now either dead or in exile. His dream has finally been achieved – and yet he is still unable to rule in peace. King Edward I of England, who feels he has been betrayed by Robert once too often, is unwilling to give up control of Scotland and sends Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, north at the head of an army. Just a few months after his coronation, Robert is defeated by Valence at Methven Wood and is forced to flee. Eight years of conflict will follow, ending in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn – and if you don’t know what happens at Bannockburn, then I’ll leave you to find out for yourself.
I enjoyed Kingdom more than Renegade, but not as much as the first book, Insurrection. This one is a bit too heavy on the battle scenes for my taste, although that’s understandable as the period covered – 1306 to 1314 – was, as I’ve mentioned above, a time of constant conflict, with Robert and his men caught up in a long series of sieges, raids, battles and skirmishes. It’s also quite a sad book, as Robert’s friends and family pay a heavy price to enable Robert to fulfil his destiny. Some face execution, some are imprisoned and others suffer the indignity of being caged like animals. There’s cruelty on both sides, but also compassion and that’s one of the things I’ve noted throughout this trilogy: that the situation is not just portrayed as a case of Scotland good and England bad or vice versa. In fact, Robert faces not just opposition from Edward and the English but also from Scottish rivals and rebels, all of whom ensure that his path to the throne will not be an easy one.
Robert himself is a more sympathetic character in this novel than in the previous two. I found him difficult to warm to before – although that was partly a result of all the treachery and betrayal he was involved in, as well as the lack of time he had to spend with his wife and daughter – but it seems that with his coronation has come a new maturity and sense of responsibility. He is still a slightly bland character, though; I prefer my heroes to be more charismatic! I actually thought some of the other characters were far more interesting than Robert – Alexander Seton, for example, a nobleman from East Lothian who finds his loyalties torn between his country and his family.
I was sorry to see the last of Edward I, who had been the driving force behind much of what happened in the first two and a half books. He is succeeded by his son, Edward II, who lacks his father’s military and leadership skills and is a less worthy opponent for Robert. But while I can’t say that I liked either of the Edwards, the real villain in Kingdom is Aymer de Valence. Apparently, though, the historical Valence was not exactly as he is portrayed in this trilogy; Robyn Young admits in her author’s note that she hasn’t been very fair to him and that he probably doesn’t deserve to be seen as villainous at all. I would like to give a word of praise to Robyn Young for her author’s notes, by the way – they are much more comprehensive than most.
I have enjoyed reading this trilogy, especially as I previously had only a very basic idea of the history involved, which meant that most of Robert Bruce’s story was new and unfamiliar to me. Now I’m looking forward to exploring the period further!
9 thoughts on “Kingdom by Robyn Young”
I enjoyed The Scottish Chiefs very much, and this is sounding like a good series to read.
It’s good to know that you enjoyed The Scottish Chiefs. I’m looking forward to reading it, especially now that I already have some knowledge of the period.
Yes, I really enjoyed it as just a plain adventure story. I haven’t been able to find anything else by Jane Porter so far, though. I could probably find ebooks, but I prefer the ones made out of paper.
It is good to hear you enjoyed all of this trilogy. This is a time period I would definitely be interested to read about. I hope you continue to enjoy reading in this area.
Thanks. It’s a fascinating period of Scottish history, which I didn’t know much about before reading this trilogy.
This sounds like a good trilogy – from what you say, the author seems to have given a pretty fair portrayal of Bruce (I’m Scottish, so am familiar with the history). If you’re interested in a later period of Scottish history, the Jacobite rebellions, I thoroughly recommend DK Broster’s The Flight of the Heron trilogy – it’s a bit over-romanticised but again the basic history is pretty truly portrayed. And the hero is so charismatic I’m still in love with him decades after first reading them… 😉
Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve read a few books set during the Jacobite Rebellions, but The Flight of the Heron is new to me. I’ll definitely think about reading it – I love the sound of the hero. 🙂
Well I have been solidly in the 20th and 21st centuries in my reading lately. But Scotland keeps rearing its head in the blogs I read! Today I started a Naguib Mahfouz book, Autumn Quail, about the upheavals in Egypt in the 1950s and 1960s. I am counting that as my historical fiction this week! I love reading your reviews.
Thank you, Judy! I hope you’re enjoying the Naguib Mahfouz book. It sounds interesting and I only have a very limited knowledge of what was happening in Egypt at that time.