Published By: Bloomsbury
Released On: 02/03/2023
Power. History. Love. Hate. Vengeance.
She will be Queen. Whatever it takes…
Daughter of an ousted king, descendant of ancient druids, as a child it is prophesied that one day Gruoch will be queen of Alba.
When she is betrothed to Duncan, heir elect, this appears to confirm the prophecy. She leaves behind her home, her family and her close friend MacBethad, and travels to the royal seat at Scone to embrace her new position.
But nothing is as Gruoch anticipates. Duncan’s court is filled with sly words and unfriendly faces, women desperate to usurp her position, and others whose motives are shrouded in mystery. As her coronation approaches, a deadly turn of events forces Gruoch to flee Duncan and the capital, finding herself alone, vulnerable and at the mercy of an old enemy. Her hope of becoming Queen all but lost, Gruoch does what she must to survive, vowing that one day she will fulfill her destiny and take up the future owed to her. Whatever it may take.
Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.
How to fully give credit to the magnificence of this work? Who gave her the right to write a book as fabulous as this?
I know I’m not alone amongst bibliophiles, especially British bibliophiles, in adoring Shakespeare, and there’s always a slight worry when someone tries to adapt a play, or expand on what Shakespeare wrote, or didn’t write. And this book caused the same worry. But I needn’t have worried. It’s so good that I’m almost sad that I’ve finished it.
I haven’t read Macbeth in a long time, and so I can’t remember how much of this is true to the play, or how much is true to the real story of the real Macbeth, but it seemed so natural that I felt it could only be true.
It is such an adventure from start to finish. Full of twists and turns and shocks, full of love and lust, murder and power, heroes and villains.
Everything is described so sumptuously. The food, the clothing, the battles, the looks between two people. It’s all gorgeous. There isn’t a wasted word in it.
Gruoch is a lovely main character. I didn’t know much about Macbeth’s wife, apart from the little you get from the Shakespeare play, so it was great to see her in this light. She does what she needs to do to survive but she never backs down from the power she was born with. We’re generally not told of these women’s achievements in history. They’re there to support the men. This book flips that on its head. We see the power that Gruoch holds against some of the most powerful men in the land, and whilst she’s often in danger, you never feel concerned for her safety. She is stronger than most give her credit for.
There are other really well written characters – even if they’re not the nicest of characters – such as Macbethad, Gillecomghain, Duncan, Adair, Sinna, Ardith, Donalda, Bethoc…they are all excellent people for Gruoch to work off of, but she steals every single scene.
I love these stories of strong women. They’re not like women today, who may be called bossy or difficult if they speak up. If they spoke up, they risk physical injury, rape, banishment or death. And yet they still did it. Because it was the right thing to do. And that’s very powerful.
Men were often expected to have ambition, to kill whoever stood between them and their goal (in this case, the crown). But as soon as a woman expresses the same desire, it’s shut down. And I love Gruoch for holding on to the dream and doing what she can to ensure she achieves it.
I must say, I did spend a lot of the time figuring out how to pronounce Macbethad, and Gruoch to be honest. My brain often called her Grouch, but then all I could picture was Sesame Street. But this led to a lot of Googling and researching the real Macbeth. It may be a fictional book but it’s a great starting point for further reading.
I read it in one sitting. I would love to see her adapt more historical figures, Shakespeare or otherwise. She’s managed to get this great balance between detailed enough to entertain those knowledgeable, and with enough basics so those who don’t know Shakespeare can follow and enjoy.
I’m generally not a huge fan of feminist retellings, as I often think authors are throwing it in just to tick boxes. Some stories just don’t work that way. It takes someone special to manage to keep the authenticity of the story, whilst focusing on a female character, and to give it what it’s due, and Isabelle is one of them.
My advanced copy was a digital copy, but the physical book looks so beautiful I may have to buy it just to have it sit on my shelf and be looked at.