The Candlemass Road

Written by George MacDonald Fraser
Review by Dana Cohlmeyer

The Candlemass Road is a well-written novel based firmly on fact. Set in the outlaw Border country between England and Scotland in the late 16th century, it tells of Lady Margaret Dacre as she struggles to take control of the recently inherited Askerton Hall.. Upon arrival, the family priest, a crumbling home, and crises demanding immediate attention confront her. Knowing her decisions will have long-term consequences, she must decide who to trust and what is right. The story, narrated by the priest, begins with him being goaded into answering a question at a college feast. His answer becomes the main story and demonstrates the vagaries of shifting alliances in such turbulent times.

Overall, this is an intriguing account of the brutal life in the lawless Borders and is presented in authentic language. At times, though, this writing style makes for difficult reading; however, it does set the tone quite beautifully and allows the reader to be drawn deeply into the story. It is a delightful tale revisiting ground previously covered by the author in his historical work The Steel Bonnets.