Book One of the Knox Trilogy
‘There’s no rhyme nor reason to it. Your destiny is already laid doon’
It’s often said that truth is stranger than fiction, and in this fictionalised account of the early life of the Scottish religious reformer John Knox, supposed truths are revealed and opened up to scrutiny. The story begins in 1511 at Hailes Castle in Scotland, where on the night of Hallowe'en, three girls contemplate their future, and even as they hurl their tokens into the crackling flames of the fire, there is a sense that fortune favours the brave, and there is none more destined to be daring than Elisabeth Hepburn, daughter of the late Patrick, 1st Earl of Bothwell. Elisabeth is a wee jaggy thistle, with scratchy edges and a nippy tongue, and her destiny, as the Roman Catholic Prioress of St Mary’s Abbey, in East Lothian, will be rife with ecclesiastical skulduggery and religious mania.
The early years of the Scottish reformation forms the basis for much of the story, and names which have lingered in the dusty alcoves of your mind suddenly spring to life. From the sumptuous palaces of the Stewart kings, to the corpulent deity of power hungry religious houses, there is a rich array of authentic Scottish voices which echo and linger. And even as the whisper of Davie Lindsay’s poetry flutters in dark and dangerous corners, there is an overwhelming need to witness for oneself the immorality which led John Knox into becoming such a fervent ecclesiastical reformer.
The rich Scottish vernacular runs like a Celtic ripple throughout the narrative, and what could have been a hindrance, to this Sassenach, soon became a unique dialogue that reverberated with the life and soul of a story that grew rich in the telling. There is no doubt that the author has a unique way with words, and dark though the story is, there is also a lightness which, at times, belies its strength, and what could so easily have become a religious diatribe soon becomes a riveting portrayal of the birth of Scottish religious reform. The clever interweaving of characters both real and imagined adds an authenticity which I found to be quite compelling, and in whose company you feel strangely complete.
My own personal knowledge of Scottish history has been reliant on the talented writing of a select group of historical fiction writers who collectively delve into the minutiae of Scottish politics and royal culpability, and who have, over time, provided a readable and believable account of events of historical significance. Good though their writing has been, I have never felt as truly immersed in the history of this enigmatic nation until I was plunged headlong into reading The First Blast of the Trumpet.
Do come back tomorrow to meet Marie Macpherson, the author of The First Blast of the Trumpet, and for a chance to win a copy of this book.