Insurrection is the first part in Robyn Young’s trilogy about Robert the Bruce. The death of Alexander III of Scotland sets the scene for this historical adventure. As Alexander left no heirs, the challengers to the vacant throne scramble forward; chief amongst them the Lord of Annandale, Robert the Bruce’s paternal grandfather, and John Balliol, supported by the Bruces’ enemies, the Comyns.
In this first part, we accompany Robert through his early years from the point when his grandfather makes his case but loses to Balliol, King Edward I’s choice (Edward, king of England, is overlord of Scotland). Disappointment doesn’t deter the Bruces from striving for a genial relationship with Edward in the hope of future support. When Robert is sent to Edward’s court, he joins a select group of young men from noble families keen to earn their spurs. Robert’s reputation as a capable fighting man grows as he makes both friends and enemies, but the group also leads him in actions he later regrets.
When the Scots finally begin to fight Edward’s heavy-handed approach to their kingdom in earnest, Robert is forced to make a choice that determines his future. But with extensive family property on both sides of the border, where does his loyalty really lie?
Like Young’s other historical novels, Insurrection is meticulously researched. The real historical incidents in Bruce’s life are cleverly interspersed with fictional events, Celtic mysticism and gory battles. Insurrection is full of action, but at times relies too much on explaining actual history to maintain the fast pace I expected.
An in-depth attempt at summing up Robert the Bruce’s early years, Insurrection is a treat for any fans of the Scottish Wars of Independence. I’m looking forward to the second installment.