Monday, 17 June 2013

Lightning Strikes Twice: INSURRECTION by Robyn Young

Insurrection by Robyn Young
There was a book I read this year, not Insurrection, a different one. The first lines of the review for that book went something like this “these are the kinds of historical fiction books that I dream of finding”.  And I meant it even though I gave that other book 4 stars and found it a little flawed.
It is hard for me to explain how I can rave about a book and give it 4 stars instead of 5. Perhaps it is this...The historical fiction books I dream of finding appeal more to my taste in writing skill and scene description and have less to do with action and entertainment factors. To me, high excitement and human drama is not everything.
Other authors have thrilled me with that near perfect or perfect combination, but they don't always come in abundance.
I did not think then when I found the earlier book, that a few short months later I would find another book of my dreams only this time it would be a 5 star read for me and I would be telling others that it is "my perfect book".
As an avid reader, perfect books are as rare for me as lightning striking twice in the one place. In this case, the second bolt of lightning came with Robyn Young's Insurrection. The first book in her Insurrection trilogy. An epic read. Grandiose, thrilling, addictive. Like all classy epics should be.

I have seen Young's books around over the years. Picked up Brethren (the first in her Brethren Trilogy and her first novel) once in a bookstore and put it down again and never revisited the author again. I do not know why I overlooked her for so long, but I have found her now and I plan on reading every historical fiction she produces. I am hooked to her wonderful style and have not felt this way about an author of an historical fiction series since discovering C.J. Sansom's wonderful Matthew Shardlake Series. His books I treasure for the same reasons that I now treasure Insurrection.
Like Sansom, Insurrection is layer upon layer of atmosphere. A descriptive depth that I always respond to with great admiration because it is not easy to do well. For many authors it can become waffle or can be classed as dragging on, but Insurrection was not one of those to me. Maybe it is for others? Who knows. But for my taste it was exquisitely worked detail and I will eat that style up all day and night.

This is a book of espionage, political intrigue, betrayal, conniving, vendettas, grudges, rivalry and clandestine meetings in dark wooded Glens. Do not expect a book built around battles and action because you won't get it. This book is built around the stunning land of Scotland and the people of power who helped to tear it apart and put it back together, only to tear it apart again. It is not a story of romance and personal relationships. It is a story of the secret schemes and dreams of the men who found themselves caught up in the dawn and early days of the Wars of Scottish Independence.

There are two techniques that the author used that I must applaud. One is the way she wrote battles. They are some of the most stylishly graphic battle scenes I have ever read. Magnificently written battle overviews that put you sometimes at the end of the battle first, where the dead lay strewn two deep across the field or sinking in the sucking mud of the burn, the rivers full of bodies, the air rank with the stink of war. You are shown what man can do to each other in battle and in hand to hand combat, before they have even done it on the page. I thought this was brilliant.

The other technique I liked was to give the reader snapshots of some strangers' lives, deaths, survival. Characters who are nobody in the story and pop up to give you a glimpse inside the minor player. They are given names, friends, personalities. They could be thirsty, frightened, unamoured Scottish footmen, bracing their spears as a line of mounted and armoured knights charge, only to then see a wall of Welsh archers form up behind them. Or the soldiers on watch at a remote keep that is overrun by enemy under the cover of darkness. I loved these moments in time. These vignettes of the common man or woman as they react and respond to territorial skirmishes that they had no choice in.

I simply can not wait to read the next book in this series, Renegade, and I have everything crossed that lightning will strike a third time. 

- MM

Please note -  I did an Author Interview with Robyn Young on this Blog in late May. To read the interview please go here;

No comments:

Post a Comment