Review of RENEGADE by Robyn Young

I am not having a good time just now. I have a huge amount of work to get through, and at every turn something goes wrong. That’s why it was such a relief to find a new writer.

We all know that feeling of finding a new author – one whose writing style just feels right, one who has the skill to bring to life a whole new world, and one who almost seems to be in the room, telling you the story as it unfolds.

I’ve got that now.

It’s a matter of embarrassment that I haven’t read any of Robyn Young’s books before. It’s not easy, though. When you’re like me, and you have a lot of friends, there are two problems. First, will parts of that story stick in your mind and lead to accusations of plagiarism; and second, what do you do if you seriously don’t like one of your best friends’ pieces of work? The short answer is, don’t accept books from friends.

However, many writers like me came to writing mainly because they – we – really do like reading. And it would be pretty difficult to ignore some of the best writers in the market, wouldn’t it?

So when I was offered a review copy of Renegade, I took it up with some trepidation.

I was right to be nervous.

It’s one of those books that you pick up in a moment of distraction because, say, the ruddy Olympics are (still) on, and rather than sit with baying mobs (wife and children) it’s better to walk from the room and read a book.

Of course, what would have been better would have been to pick up another book. One to help research the book I’m supposed to be writing, say, or the next one I’m thinking about already. But sadly, I didn’t. I picked up this one, and it was a problem immediately. What was going to be a short read was a major diversion for the next three days. I even took it walking with me – and the four miles never disappeared so easily.

Renegade is the second in the series of stories based on Robert the Bruce and his rebellion against the English, in the guise of Edward I. It’s my period, the one in which I’ve been immersed for the last seventeen or eighteen years with my own Baldwin de Furnshill/Puttock series.

Robyn has a wonderful skill. She goes behind the history to the roots of legends and stories to pull up ever more convincing detail. In this book she goes to the beginning of the myths of the four nations that make up Britain. There is the Scottish Stone of Scone, the English Sword Curtana, the Crown of Arthur from Wales, and from Ireland, the Staff of Malachy. According to prophecy, when these are all gathered together, the Kingdom of Britain shall be once more at peace.

So the story begins with the Staff of Malachy, with the first discovery, and moves quickly on to the time of the Bruce, and his early days after inciting rebellion in the first book.

Bruce has escaped the English and is in Ireland again. But his peace is shattered when he has acquired the Staff. To escape and preserve it, he gives it to a kinsman, but then he’s captured. He escapes from gaol and makes his way to the English, where he inveigles his way into the court with promises of loyalty from now on, but in a warlord’s court like that of King Edward, no one is entirely trusted, least of all a man who was a rebel. Bruce has to prove himself by fighting and killing his countrymen so that he might preserve his nation and hope to take the Scottish crown for himself.

This book deals with his earlier part of his life. There is a lot more to his story, from his sending his brother to Ireland to take the Irish crown, to the battles where he broke the English armies at Bannockburn and the raids that wrought such disaster on the Northern Marches all the way to York. These will no doubt appear in a third book. But for now, this book is gripping, exciting, and written with a swift, tense pace that grabs the reader and doesn’t let go.

It’s the very best in modern historical writing, and Robyn is here at the peak of her abilities. My only problem is that I have to go and find her past books – and wait a year for her next one.

2 Responses to “Review of RENEGADE by Robyn Young”
  1. Tasha Turner says:

    Sounds like a great read.


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