|My new feature of 'One from the Book Shelf' takes an old friend, a book that I have had for years and gives me the chance to re-read and review it.|
My July ~ One from the Book Shelf
Last week saw commemorations in Scotland for the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn which witnessed the defeat of the forces of the English King Edward II, by the army of the Scottish King Robert the Bruce in 1314. This battle for Scottish independence was the culmination of a long fight which had started during the reign of Edward I, who is better known by the sobriquet the ‘Hammer of the Scots’, and who became infamous for his brutal execution of the noble warrior, William Wallace.
Kingdom of Shadows takes the story of the tragic Isobel of Buchan whose support of Robert the Bruce put her in defiance of both her husband and the English King. The disaster of her life is well documented, although perhaps the reason behind her actions is less known. What Barbara Erskine has done is to add flesh to the story and has produced an unforgettable heroine and a tragedy of epic proportions.
The time slip story, which uses as its focus the 20C story of Claire Royland and her fiercely ambitious husband, mirrors that of Isobel, who trapped in the 13C uses Claire as the medium through which her story is told. The transition between time frames is seamless and whilst for me the 13C story became more compelling, there is no doubt that the situation which develops between Claire and her husband, is no less forceful as the conflict between Isobel and her husband.
The novel was originally published in 1988, and I remember reading Kingdom of Shadows for the first time in the early 1990s. The story is beautifully told, rich in historic detail and alive with mystery and intrigue. Isobel’s final punishment by a malicious and ill favoured King is stark and brutal, and yet in the hands of this talented writer, Isobel’s human fragility, combined with her strength of spirit truly comes alive.
And as the final tragedy of the story is revealed, the mists of time shimmer and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up as Isobel's ghostly figure tells you that for her the story is never finished and that as long as Kingdom of Shadows remains in print she will be heard time and time again.