Prince Across the Water

Written by Jane Yolen Robert J. Harris
Review by Cindy Vallar

In August 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie lands in Scotland to regain the British throne for his father. Parliament had ousted his grandfather, James II, in favor of the Protestant branch of the Stuarts. When the call to arms comes, Duncan MacDonald is eager to go, having listened to his grandfather’s war stories his entire life. His father, however, refuses Duncan’s request. He must stay behind to tend the cows and care for his mother and younger siblings. So does his cousin Ewan, a year older than Duncan, but neither lad intends to stay behind forever. Daily they practice with their swords, and when they learn of Ewan’s father’s death, they set out to join the Prince’s army at Culloden. As they line up on the field of battle, neither imagines the horrors and tragedies to come.

The outcome of the Rising of 1745 had a profound impact on Scottish Highlanders and their way of life. This is a vivid and brutal, but realistic, retelling of the rising, the tragedy of Culloden, and its aftermath. Seeing it unfold through a fourteen-year-old’s eyes makes the telling all the more poignant. Duncan’s immaturity, loyalty, fear, and courage make him a teenager with whom readers will identify, for his struggles mirror our own as we grow to adulthood. In spite of two minor errors—the length of time it takes to traverse the Highlands and the MacDonalds of Keppoch arriving at Glenfinnan before the Camerons—this is an excellent and captiviating introduction to a period in history few people know about but should.