Kings of the Boyne

Written by Nicola Pierce
Review by Ann Turnbull

I have to confess that before reading this story I knew nothing of the events it re-tells—but I decided to leave things that way and see if I could follow it. I’m pleased to report that I could and am now much better informed about the late 17th century in Ireland.

Nicola Pierce gives an overview of the battle, the events leading up to it, the outcome, and its meaning and impact for all concerned, while homing in on the detail as it affected the ordinary soldier and citizen. She does this by focusing mainly on the experiences of two teenagers—Protestant Daniel from Derry, and Gerald, the son of an aristocratic Catholic family. Interspersed with their personal stories and those of their companions are chapters that focus on each of the two kings—James II of England and Louis XIV of France—and their feelings and engagement with the struggle.

As the battle draws closer, tension rises. There is terror, death and grief, and the full horror and waste of war is revealed. As a historical re-enactment, seen from all sides with realism and compassion, this book is masterly. However, the disadvantage of this method is that the reader has constantly to switch from one character’s viewpoint to another. My only criticism would be that I sometimes wanted to spend more time with the teenage characters than there was room for. I found Gerald particularly appealing and would have liked to know more about him and what happened to him afterwards. Another book, perhaps?