Blood’s Campaign

Written by Angus Donald
Review by Carol McGrath

In this third volume of the series, Holcroft Blood, on the Williamite Campaign in Ireland in 1689-1690, is ready to unleash cannons on the rebellious Irish forces of the deposed Catholic monarch, James II. Blood also has revenge in his heart against French agent Henri d’Erloncourt. And who is the enemy within, the informer known as Agricola?

From its opening chapter set during the siege of Carrickfergus, in August 1689, the story’s pace is relentless. Battles and sieges follow, told from the main characters’ perspectives, namely that of Colonel Blood, Henri D’Erloncourt, a spy, and Michael “Galloping” Hogan, who is a brigand, boozer, and a despoiler of Protestant farms who wants to defend his native land and realise profit on the side.

Characters, even minor, are vividly portrayed, but it is the personal fortunes of these three that make this novel a superb success. They leap from the page with individual and universal human concerns and emotions. They will never be the same after their experiences on July 12th 1690. Their personal fortunes dramatically intersect as we follow them into Irish towers, castles, and to social events. We anxiously look out for enemies from the city walls of Cork and Limerick. We inhabit the novel’s terrifying dank cells, its cellars and various countryside destinations in between.

As I read this book I was reminded of Scott and, on occasion, Tolstoy, because Donald really does create a totally realistic and immersive historical world inhabited by fascinating characters, intrigue, betrayal, and adventure.