High Kings and Vikings

by Nigel Tranter

Reviewed by David Maclaine

Strife stalks the kingdom of Scotland in High Kings and Vikings. As the end of the first millennium approaches, a High King falls to the hand of a murderess, and Viking raiders ravage the coast. Young Cormac mac Farquhar has just succeeded his father as Thane of Glamis, and must quickly learn his duties as a leader of men, and sort through some difficult conflicts of loyalty. Along the way he meets an appealing young woman named Fenella, who in typical Tranter fashion feels no need of chaperones when she accompanies Cormac on various forays across the Scottish landscape. She teaches him flounder fishing and the joys of sea bathing and is an able helpmate in the task of raising and training crews for some long-ships he has captured while in service to the newly crowned king. Along the way they win the friendship of another young man finding his place in the world, a son and heir of the Mormaor of Moray who has the odd name of Macbeth. They even play a hand in his marriage to the lovely young woman named Gruoch who, in centuries to come, would be transformed into an infamous “Lady.”

But the brilliant, unhistorical drama that kept the Macbeth name alive was based on events that took place decades after this tale of Scotland’s struggles is set. In the historical Macbeth's time, the stability of the nation’s antique system of elected governance - seven Mormaors who choose a king from a handful of eligible candidates - is challenged by invasion from abroad and ambition from within. High Kings and Vikings is one of Nigel Tranter’s later novels, and while his charmingly old-fashioned style takes us on an assortment of minutely described journeys across his beloved Scottish landscapes, a few odd errors of chronology suggest a slackening attention to historical detail by the prolific 89-year-old author. (1998; 344 pages)

More about High Kings and Vikings at Amazon.com

High Kings and Vikings appears on the list of The 45 Best Historical Novels Set in the Viking Age

Other novels in which Macbeth appears:

Macbeth the King by Nigel Tranter (1978), a novel revolving around Macbeth as the central character. More info

King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett (1982), a novel which incorporates the Dunnett's theory that Macbeth, King of Scotland in the eleventh century, was also Thorfinn of Orkney. See review or more info at Powell's Books

Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King (2008), about the Scottish queen who married Macbeth. See review or more info at Powell's Books

Nonfiction about Macbeth and his time:

Macbeth: A True History by Fiona Watson (2010). More info

Macbeth: High King of Scotland, 1040-1057 by Peter Berresford Ellis (1994). More info

Macbeth: Man and Myth by Nick Aitchison (1999). More info


Macbeth of Scotland at Wikipedia

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