The Gryphon at Bay

Written by Louise Turner
Review by Viviane Crystal

1489: Hugh, the Second Lord Montgomerie, has just lost his father and is now given substantial power as a member of the Privy Council, also carrying the authority of the Scottish King James IV in Lennox and the Westland. He must now deal with his enemies, the Cunninghames, and decide whether to be loyal to his King or to the family, the Darnley Stewarts. The conflicts increase with a few trusting peers who are, however, always leery of traitors. One character, John Semple of Ellestoun, remains an ally. Many enemies plot against Montgomerie, and a tremendous amount of bloodshed follows, at one point leaving Hugh close to death after suffering a brutal beating by the common people.

Sometimes the many characters can be confusing, but eventually it all gets sorted out. The characters’ complexity is what becomes intriguing to the reader. Hugh is a very devout Christian, always praying or reading a spiritual book. Yet so many people hate him, and recount that he is guilty of the worst atrocities, that it becomes hard for a contemporary reader to merge the two sides of this notable historical character. He is also a passionate, caring lover to his wife and endearing to his family. Scottish feuds seem to last forever, and as soon as one is supposedly settled, some fine point unravels everything, and fierce fighting quickly ensues. However, the reader will find it fascinating to see how loyalty was judged and with what fierceness revenge was carried out. A passionate people, these lords and ladies lived in tumultuous times that Louise Turner deftly depicts in this memorable work of Scottish historical fiction.