The Spider and The Stone: A Novel of Scotland’s Black Douglas. Glen Craney. Brigid’s Fire Press. October 2013. 432 pp. ISBN#: 9780981648408.
Scotland in the beginning of the 14th Century is besieged by turmoil that may yet be its total undoing. Its internal tribes are constantly vying for power and consequently always at war, both verbally and physically. Add to it that the King of England, Edward Longshanks, is furious at how the Scots are always creating border disputes and battles and he’s now determined to totally break them, humiliate them, and take over the entire country which he owns anyway. But what he and his weak son do not realize is just how fierce and determined these feisty Scotsmen and women are. The likes of James Douglas in this novel demonstrate the thorn in the flesh he and his followers are in England’s royal presence.
The novel opens with a brutal scene in which Scottish castles are ruthlessly destroyed. This is quickly followed by the death of a friend of James and soon thereafter the death of William Wallace, a hero revered by all faithful Scots. Robert the Bruce, however, who swears allegiance to lead Scotland as King seems to waver between his sworn duty and trying to manipulate and cower before Longshanks. The result is more division as neither side knows where Robert truly lies, yielding more and more dissension. Jamie, however, is tested over and over but is faithful. The question is whether or not he will eventually be Scotland’s King.
Early in the novel, James falls in love with Isabelle MacDuff but obstacles after obstacles seem to interfere with their desired union. It is her family who officiate over the crowning of Scotland’s Kings near the mystical Stone of Destiny, whose eerie scream will only sound when the true King of Scotland touches the stone.
This is a long but thoroughly enjoyable story which holds more intrigue than one could imagine, including the activities of the Knights Templar, those of the repressed pagan Culdee Church, the declaration that inspired other similar official documents for freedom long after this century concluded, and tales within tales of romantic legends and battles that never fail to move the characters hearing or reading about them. Even though there are many names and clans mentioned, it is worth the effort to follow them carefully, in order to fully appreciate this memorable, well-researched, and thoroughly enjoyable work of historical fiction! Great read that is highly recommended!