On Hist Fic Saturday
Let's go back to .....1546
My thanks to the author for my copy of this book
1546, and Scotland is under attack from Henry VIII, determined to marry his son to the infant Mary, Queen of Scots. A few among the Scottish nobles, for both political and religious reasons, are eager for this alliance too. They kill Cardinal Beaton, who is Mary’s great protector, and take St Andrews Castle, expecting rescue any day from England.
For a sister and brother – spirited Bethia, living outside the castle in St Andrews, and Will among the rebels inside the castle – the long siege becomes a fight for survival. But it’s also a struggle over loyalties and the choices they each must make: whether to save their family, or follow their hearts…
This debut novel closely follows the tumultuous events of the siege of St Andrews Castle, and its dramatic re-taking.
📖 My Thoughts..
In 1546 Scotland is under constant threat from King Henry VIII and emotions, in and around St Andrew's run high, especially after the death of George Wishart, a Scottish Protestant Reformer, whose public execution does little to quell the public disgust at Cardinal David Beaton's involvement. This singular act led to the storming of the castle at St Andrews by a group of rebels, and the grisly murder of Cardinal Beaton resulted in a siege, at the castle, which lasted over eighteen months.
The Castilians takes us through the momentous months of the siege of St Andrews as seen through the combined experiences of teenage brother and sister Will and Bethia, who are both spirited and well meaning, but when their paths diverge it becomes a fight for survival. Will is hot headed and impetuous and moved to sedition by the death of Wishart, his high ideals make him a perfect recruit into the group of like minded rebels, known as 'Castilians'. Bethia, in contrast in more level headed and although hampered by that fact that she is just a young woman in a man's world, she does all she can to ensure her brother's safety.
I have to admit to not knowing very much about the Siege of St Andrews but that didn't matter as the author brings everything to life in a believable and authentic way. The snippets of Scottish vernacular add to the atmosphere as does the lively description of life in a wealthy sixteenth century merchant home. I especially enjoyed Bethia's mother's illusions of grandeur as she seeks to be as good as her richer associates. I also liked Bethia very much, she infuses the page with vibrant personality, desperately trying to understand her brother's political leanings, whilst at the same time needing to be a dutiful daughter to her parents.
The Castilians is an intelligently written historical novel which brings to life a politically significant moment in Scottish history and by interweaving known historical figures, with fictional characters, an interesting story of political unrest, sedition and danger emerges.
V E H Masters was born and brought up on a farm a few miles outside St Andrews, Scotland.
The first time she ever visited St Andrews Castle was aged 12, when her history teacher took the class on a school trip. They crept down the siege tunnel and peered into the bottle dungeon, where Cardinal Beaton's body was said to have been kept pickled in salt. She was hooked!
The Castilians, her debut novel, tells the story of how the Cardinal's body ended up in the dungeon and why the siege tunnel was built. It closely follows the actual historical events.