Monday, 3 June 2013

Get Your Tickets for the Tourney: THE LION AT BAY by Robert Low

The Lion at Bay by Robert Low
Do you want the good news or the bad news?
I personally like bad news first so I can end on a better note with the good news, so how about I go in that order.

Bad news?  The Wars of Scottish Independence do not really excite and delight me. I don't know why exactly. I do have some ideas though. Listed here, but in no particular order.
History class in school: made it a chore not a pleasure to learn about it. Braveheart: was a disaster that scarred me for life and everyone was into it and talked non stop about it and they still do, so I overdosed. Saturation levels reached: between school, Braveheart and current, I have had the History Channel off and on for many years and have seen numerous documentaries, not all of them good, and so I am kind of over it.

Good news? There's room for more Wars of Scottish Independence in my life as long as it is quality and entertaining. Both of which, The Lion at Bay was for me. See, isn't it always nice to have good news after bad?

I am always open about my admiration for Robert Low. His Viking series, Oathsworn, is one of my favourite series'. In fact it is one of my 'top two' favourites, with Bernard Cornwell's Saxon series being the other. And yet despite my admiration and respect for the author and his Viking books, I still found myself having a lukewarm response to the idea of his Kingdom Trilogy. I sat back on my heels for a little while, psyching myself up after the release of book one in the trilogy, The Lion Wakes.
I am not one those people that will devour anything a favourite author produces. Especially if they write historical fiction, because there are always periods and events in history that I have little or no interest in. Eventually I took the leap and read The Lion Wakes last year. It was good. I liked it, but I have to confess, the combination of a certain style of writing used in that book, and my lacklustre interest in the period, was like hefting a brick of lead and I ended up only giving it 3 stars out of 5.

Then, along came The Lion at Bay. The same but different. Less disorienting for me. More meaty.
In book one I found that I distracted easily from the book. It was more rambling and hard for me to get into. But in book two, I was either in a better headspace, or the author did something subtly different and I was much more invested in characters, events and scene.

What I can give you out of my experience with The Lion at Bay is this. If, like me, you were not exactly in love with book one, but had not written the trilogy off completely, then I would encourage you to give it another go. It is only a trilogy after all. Not like you have a long series to follow on with. Try book two, The Lion at Bay and see what you think. All your favourite characters will be there for you to revisit. There is battle, and blood, and love and betrayal. And there is one awesome tourney individual combat scene in the first half of the book that may have you screaming from the cheap seats. Or not. Maybe that was just me.

I will be moving onto the last book in the Trilogy, The Lion Rampant soon. I trust this trilogy to only get better.
4 out of 5 stars for you, Lion at Bay!

- MM

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