The Poisoned Cup by Edward Lanyon

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Good afternoon readers, it’s Thursday and I have another brilliant review for you. Now this one comes with a sigh because it should have been posted, well a little while ago to say the least but my disorganised brain managed to miss it completely. It’s been sat in my drafts waiting to be posted for a very long time, but today is the day. In terms of reading, currently I am wading through 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami and it is an absolute masterpiece; I cannot stop reading it; the review will be up probably in the next year seeing as in total the three books span over 2000 pages but we’ll see: for now, this (very) long awaited review.

You’ve seen Braveheart – now discover the other side of the story. In 1286, King Edward of England sends his aged confidant, Sir Henry de Grenville, to Scotland to negotiate a marriage that could unite the two kingdoms. In a tragic accident, the Scottish king dies and his country is left without an heir. In a desperate bid to avoid civil war, the Guardians of Scotland invite King Edward to arbitrate on the succession. But war ensues anyway, a war that quickly engulfs England. Sir Henry is caught up in a bitter conflict against the army of William Wallace. But there is a spy in the Wallace camp…

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So, this is a full on whirlwind of a historical fiction book and as you all know I adore historical fiction. The book follows an ageing English Knight who happens to be working for King Edward the first. His job is to bring peace between England and Scotland; the angst between the two kingdoms is beginning to build to a startling level. However his plans are scuppered when the King of Scotland, Alexander is killed in a sudden accident; all must be done to stop the incoming of a civil war. With no clear path of how to unite the two, war wages and Sir Henry is caught up in the heat. Step forward William Wallace, a mean and fierce man and a little different to the figure we see in the film Braveheart. Lanyon spills a brutal tale of battles, knights, one beautiful maiden and a rip-rolling story.

So the first thing to mention is this feels like a very well-researched and investigated story; the story feels real and definitely transports you to medieval times which of course it is supposed to. I liked the idea that history can be a little set up to make certain historical figures seen in a more positive light and Lanyon forces the reader to re-think the portraits we see of such historic figures. What I also found truly intriguing was the brutal nature of the book: this is an author who does not step back instead the writing is heady, ruthless but also fully formed. It feels like you’re there in the action, feeling the heat of the battle, the roar in your ears; it’s a wonderful thing when historical fiction manages this.

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I thought the characters were fleshed out with style and precision and I liked the way that some are historical figures whilst others are fictional and created from the author’s imagination. I thought the political line of fiction was woven throughout and helped to add to the action and make it feel all the more real. Two slight wobbles; I did wonder how far the character profiles of some of the characters such as William Wallace had been pushed to fit with the storyline and some of the events that occurred did push the boundaries of believability a little but I was so consumed that didn’t affect how much I enjoyed the book to a point where it became a major issue.

I really did enjoy this wonderfully told historical fiction; this type of plot-line isn’t my first port of call, I often prefer the tales of what was happens away from the battle and I tend to read books that focus during world war one and two but this novel has definitely opened my eyes to the other types of historical fiction that are out there waiting to be read.  My only slight complaint would be how honest the character profiles are and how far they have been played with to fit with the plot-line being woven but I thoroughly enjoyed this tale. It has a real sense of what historical fiction should do and how to engage the reader. A lovely, but rather brutal tale.

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