Monday, February 6, 2012

Book Review: Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King

I am granddaughter to a king and daughter to a prince, a wife twice over, a queen as well. I have fought with sword and bow, and struggled fierce to bear my babes into this world.  I have loved deeply and hated deeply, too.

Lady Gruadh, called Rue, is the last female descendent of Scotland's most royal line. Married to a powerful northern lord, she is widowed while still carrying his child and forced to marry her husband's murderer: a rising war-lord named Macbeth. Encountering danger from Vikings, Saxons, and treacherous Scottish lords, Rue begins to respect the man she once despised-and then realizes that Macbeth's complex ambitions extend beyond the borders of the vast northern region. Among the powerful warlords and their steel-games, only Macbeth can unite Scotland-and his wife's royal blood is the key to his ultimate success.

Determined to protect her small son and a proud legacy of warrior kings and strong women, Rue invokes the ancient wisdom and secret practices of her female ancestors as she strives to hold her own in a warrior society. Finally, side by side as the last Celtic king and queen of Scotland, she and Macbeth must face the gathering storm brought on by their combined destiny.

From towering crags to misted moors and formidable fortresses, Lady Macbeth transports readers to the heart of eleventh-century Scotland, painting a bold, vivid portrait of a woman much maligned by history.

Synopsis courtesy of

My Review

3.5 Stars

Susan Fraser King's debut novel, Lady Macbeth, takes readers back to 11th century Scotland.  The novel's protagonist, Lady Gruadh, is the last descendent of Scotland's ancient royal line.   Married to one of Scotland's most powerful lords, Gruadh leaves the comfort and familiarity of her family home to join her husband in his vast and unforgiving northern domain.   Just as she begins to feel comfortable in her new surroundings, a pregnant Gruadh is left a widow at the hands of Macbeth, a man many feel is rightful lord over her late husband's people and lands.   Widowhood doesn't last long for Gruadh, who is forced to marry Macbeth almost immediately after the death of her husband.   While tumultuous at the outset, the marriage evolves into one of respect, admiration and finally love on the part of Gruadh, who works with her husband to unite Scotland and put an end to the constant threats posed by the Vikings and Saxons.    Lady Macbeth is Gruadh's story. 

Overall, Lady Macbeth is an enjoyable read.  This novel's greatest strengths are Fraser King's descriptive prose and attention to historical detail, which enable the politics, culture, customs and beliefs of 11th century Scotland to come vividly to life.   My enjoyment of this novel, however, was tempered by the author's use of first person narrative.   Gruadh is an aloof figure and, even though the story is told from her perspective, by the novel's end I didn't feel as if I knew her any better than I did at the start.   Furthermore, by telling the story through Gruadh's eyes, the motivations of the novel's supporting characters are inadequately, or not at all, explained.   Macbeth himself remains very much an enigma.  Yet learning more about him would have enhanced my enjoyment of the story.   While the characters failed to come completely alive for me, Fraser King's presentation of life in 11th century Scotland in and of itself makes this novel a worthwhile read. 

Recommended to fans of historical fiction interested in Scottish history, particularly those interested in the early medieval era.  

Note: This book comes from my own personal collection.