☼ On Hist Fic Saturday ☼
Let's go back to ....14th Century Scotland
Hist Fic Revisited
The Battle of Bannockburn, 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 ever after is known by the sobriquet ‘Hammer of the Scots’ and made infamous for his brutal execution of the Scottish warrior, William Wallace.
Kingdom of Shadows takes the story of the tragic Isobel of Buchan whose support for 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, uses as its focus the twentieth century story of Claire Royland and her fiercely ambitious husband, and mirrors that of Isobel, who trapped in the thirteenth century uses Claire as the medium through which her story is told. The transition between time frames is seamless and whilst the thirteenth century story becomes more compelling, there is no doubt that the developing situation between Claire and her husband is no less forceful than 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.
It has been a wonderful treat to revisit this story which remains one of my all time favourite historical reads. I think the story remains as strong as ever, with perhaps the twentieth century aspect seeming a little dated now however, the story is none the worse for that.
An historian by training, Barbara Erskine is the author of bestselling novels that demonstrate her interest in both history and the supernatural, plus two collections of short stories. Her books have appeared in at least twenty different languages. She lives with her family in an ancient manor house near Colchester, and in a cottage near Hay-on-Wye.
Twitter @Barbaraerskine #Historical Fiction