Earlier this year, I was contacted by the author, Margaret Skea, about her two novels; set in 16th century Scotland – she described them as historical fiction written with Christian values. Enjoying historical fiction and being a Christian, I didn’t wait long to pick up the first book, Turn of the Tide.
On a dark, stormy night in an isolated ravine the Earl of Glencairn and the Cunninghames set a deadly ambush for their long-time rivals, the Montgomeries. The whole retinue, high and low born a like, are massacred which leads to a string of bloody reprisals across the land. Finally, the young James VI must step in to stop the chaos; forcing the leaders of the clans to sign a peace treaty. While they outwardly keep the peace, the rivalry continues as they vie for the favour of the king, the tension grows and the ascendancy of Hugh Montgomerie only antagonises the vicious Cunninghame heir, William, further.
I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in this bloody, family drama during the reign of the young James VI in Scotland; a period of history I have never read about before. In fact, it is well documented that the Cunninghames and the Montgomeries did have a long-standing rivalry, with attacks and deaths on both sides. For the purposes of this story though, the author has chosen to portray the Earl of Glencairn as the antagonist and his heir, William, as the villain; and what a villain he makes! While Hugh Montgomerie gets to play the more sympathetic role – he is filled with anger and longs for justice yet he also wishes for the bloodshed to end.
The author cleverly steps out from the real history to narrate the story to us through the fictional Munro and his family. Munro is an honest and hardworking man who has been dragged into this terrible feud due to his forefathers long-standing allegiance to the Cunninghames. He is sickened by the part he played in the bloody ambush, at the beginning of the book, but he felt he had to do it to protect his family. He may respect Glencairn but his dislike and fear of William turns to outright hatred, as he witnesses first hand William’s selfishness and cruelty. Dangerously, Munro and his family also find themselves being drawn towards the true friendship that Hugh and his family offer.
This tale had me on the edge of my seat through out! I found Munro to be a likeable protagonist, William a horrible villain, Hugh an interesting alternative and James VI a vain and silly king. I thought Skea brought her real and fictional characters alive beautifully – I believed in them, rooted for them and feared for them in this dark, hard and bloody time period. A period which was so well evoked through the costume, customs, language and bleak landscape the characters dwelt within and used. In particular, I appreciated Skea’s use of a realistic dialect yet still something we could understand today – if you did become a little stuck there is an extensive glossary to help.
In conclusion, I found Turn of the Tide to be a gripping and fascinating 16th century tale of family, rivalry and death. I can’t wait to read the second Munro book, A House Divided. Great read.
Thank you to the author for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read this? Any recommendations for other historical fiction from this time period?