The Islesman


           In the late 13th century, Angus Og MacDonald is brought up by his grandfather, the great Angus Mor, to be the future Lord of the Isles, his own father being too studious and weak-willed to be the true heir. His main task is to serve as leader and protector of his people, scattered as they are on remote islands throughout the Hebrides and on the Scottish mainland. Angus solves disputes through both diplomacy and military strength, only resorting to the latter when necessary. The incursion of the English king Edward I into Scottish territory poses a greater risk, for though the Isles are a semi-independent country, any threat to Scotland is a threat to their existence. Joining forces with Robert the Bruce, Angus does all he can to save his land from English occupation.

           These were exciting times, and for the most part, Tranter does them justice. There are some passages that recall Jean Plaidy’s writing in her later years, that is, sweeping summaries of events that serve to tie up loose plot ends but leave the reader wanting more details. But the research is impeccable as always, and Angus’ romantic pursuits are equally as compelling as his military and political confrontations. It also continues to amaze me how Tranter can effectively convey an entire lively conversation without writing a single word of dialogue. Angus Og’s story isn’t as action-oriented as it might have been, given the subject matter. Still, nobody else could have done it better.


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