The Lion Wakes
by Robert Low
Reviewed by Annis
"When the lion wakes, everyone must beware its fangs..."
Edward I of England has betrayed Scottish trust. In 1296 he deposes Scotland’s King John Balliol and removes the royal regalia and ancient kingmaking Stone of Destiny. Scottish rebellion is brutally crushed, but a leader arises, a common man called William Wallace. While Edward prosecutes war in France, Wallace rallies the people of Scotland. Its noble families waver. Wallace has nothing to lose but his life. Many, like the Bruces, hold lands in both England and Scotland.
Some families put a man in both camps, hoping to gain advantage however matters turn out, and so minor nobleman Sir Hal Sientcler of Herdmanston suddenly finds himself a rebel. Following family orders, he attaches himself to the ambitious Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick ("a prideful huff"), who joins forces with Wallace. Through Hal we follow the ebb and flow of a bloody war of attrition - victory for the Scots at Stirling Bridge and disaster at Falkirk - and see heroic figures like Wallace and The Bruce as the men they might really have been.
Savage warfare is not the only peril. Conflict with the English fuels smouldering clan blood-feuds, like that between the Bruces and Comyns, and either a hunt or a battle makes convenient cover for "red murder". Violence, intrigue and treachery can be found even where least expected, and The Bruce himself has a secret for which he’ll kill friend as quick as foe to protect.
Low throws himself boldly and with brio into the dark and dangerous tangle of the First War of Scottish Independence. Written in a distinctively Scottish voice, rich in dialect and striking imagery, The Lion Wakes boasts a wealth of vividly drawn characters including a puissant, rancorous Edward I ("a great black storm"), and the best collection of Scottish rogues, retainers and hard fighting men since George MacDonald Fraser’s The Candlemass Road. (2011; 439 pages, including a map of 13th-century Britain, Author's Note, List of Characters and Glossary)
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Other novels featuring Robert the Bruce and William Wallace:
Insurrection by Robyn Young (2010), about Robert the Bruce of Scotland and Edward I of England; #1 in a planned series. More info
The Crown in the Heather by N. Gemini Sasson (2010), about the rivalry of Robert the Bruce and John Balliol for the throne of Scotland; #1 in the Bruce Trilogy. More info
The Bruce Trilogy by Nigel Tranter (omnibus edition, 1985), about Robert the Bruce, encouraged by William Wallace to fight for Scotland's independence; includes the three novels The Steps to the Empty Throne, The Path of the Hero King, and The Price of the King's Peace. More info
Nonfiction about Robert the Bruce, William Wallace and the First War of Scottish Independence:
Robert the Bruce, King of the Scots by Ronald McNair Scott (1996). More info
William Wallace by Andrew Fisher (2007). More info
Scotland's First War of Independence by Sarah Crome (1999). More info
Scotland’s "Bravehearts": William Wallace and Robert the Bruce at the Historic UK website
The Stone of Destiny (the Liath Fàil) and the Honours of Scotland by Michael R Burch
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