Reiver by David Pilling

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The Pretender

After a short break to catch its breath, the John Swale Chronicles are set to ride again - and walk, and stagger, and probably collapse, riddled with arrows, a couple of times - in the next instalment, 'The Pretender', to be released by the lovely folks at Musa Publishing on the 6th of July.

Here the scene switches to Scotland, where Robert de Bruce has recently died, leaving the throne to his son, David, and the regents Donal of Mar and the Earl of Moray. The future looks bleak for the Scots - their new King is just a boy of seven, Moray is dying, and the ever-covetous English are casting their covetous eyes north, where the pickings have just got easier now Bruce is gone.

However, the young Edward III is wary of sticking his toes in the boiling pan of Scottish politics, and needs a convenient stooge to do the fighting for him while he settles affairs in England: enter Edward Balliol, the 'pretender' of the title. He is the son of old John Balliol, otherwise known as 'Toom Tabard' or the Empty Coat, once King of Scotland and now very definitely dead. Having spent much of his life in exile in France, Balliol junior is desperately keen to get his hands on the Scottish crown, and eagerly snatches at King Edward's covert offer of military support.

While these high and mighty events roll and tumble, John Swale's sister, Margaret, faces the prospect of losing her husband and her son to the looming war with England. Her son, a belligerent and fiercely patriotic youth, ignores her pleas to remain at home, and rides away with his father to the coronation of King David, leaving Margaret bereft and alone...

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