Highland King, the sequel to Draegnstoen, continues the saga of the royal families in 5th Century Scotland and Northern England.
Doncann (nephew of Coel from Draegnstoen) is a young Pictish prince. Swept up in the politics and murderous infighting of claimants to his grandfather’s throne, he is falsely accused of murder and exiled to the north. Often fighting for his life, he is protected by the magic of women, mentored by a Celtic demigod and shown how his fate is part of the collective future of his people.
Who can unite an ancient kingdom broken apart for generations? Stand up to an invading army
threatening to overrun the entire country?
Learn the secret of the Stone of Destiny?
No one but the Highland King. (Released 2011)
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He paused and felt his mind reaching out to the stone, to the sky and beyond, and he listened to the wind blowing over the cliffs and across the moor. It whipped through the village and blew across the rough surface of the pillar and in the darkness it brought the ancient name, the true name to his ears and mind. His eyes pulled him to look up and to his right, and he saw the constellation Scathach said was his; the great Hunter King. The hairs stood up on the back of his neck, and he looked back to Caointiorn and knew she was connected to him, and there was a link from her back to this stone.
“We are th’ Cruithni,” he whispered, “named after th’ first great High King, also named Cruithni. His grandson, Conn, erected this stone, almost two thousand yirs ago. He dinnae name this stone Uyea Breck. “Tha’ is no’ its true name. Tha’ name is corrupted an’ means simply ‘High Stone’. Tha’ name haes no power. The true name o’ th’ stone is… ‘Carragh an Gaidhealtachd Righ’…”
“The Pillar o’ the High King?”
“No,” he gazed at the top of the moonlit stone; “The Pillar o’…th’ Highland King.” He looked back to Caointiorn. Her eyes were glistening.
“It’s yoo,” she whispered in the darkness.
Highland King, Chapter 28: Uyea Breck
Prepare for Destiny!
By Elaina J Davidson
Prepare yourself! The Highland King has it all! Ancient Scottish (and Irish) lore, druids, standing stones, magic, epic battles, a berserker, a champion, murder and mayhem in the name of greed and power, the beauty and magic of the lochs, prophecy and destiny, a sword, and, yes, a hero. A tale on this scale would not work without a right proper hero!
Meet Doncann, a boy who grows into manhood via exile and the trials of battle. He is trained by a goddess and discovers his life is marked by the foresight of the women who love and protect him. Marked as an outlaw, he is placed upon destiny's path to unite the tribes against a common enemy.
Jeff Blackmer is a great storyteller, a modern bard who brings the ancient tales to life again. I loved the Highland King and could not put it down. And there's an added little incentive in reading this: you are completely immersed in the Scottish manner of speaking (my favourite accent!). In fact, it's sort of strange now to write this review in `normal' speak, having been immersed for many enjoyable hours in another culture and time!
Absolutely worth it. Allow me to repeat that: ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT!
July 22, 2013
I read this title as part of a book club that requires a review. Highland King (HK) is a sword and sorcery/fantasy epic with a difference - the storyline/characters are predicated on actual Celtic legend/history. The book thus tells the story of the Pictish peoples and their internecine struggles for the many thanedoms (and the unifying kingship) of Scotland's Highlands and islands.
Genuine mythological figures and creatures (Schathach the Warrior Goddess, kelpies) and actual historical figures (Talorg, Conall, the Maetae, Cruithni and Dalriada peoples) populate the narrative. You can look these up on Wikipedia (I did!) to add to your understanding - alternatively there is a brief glossary at the end of HK. Jeff Blackmer brings this fusion of fact and fantasy brilliantly to life within the narrative - giving each character personality and authenticity; remaining true to the legends but making them accessible and entertaining to the modern reader.
The central narrative thread of HK is the relationship between heroic protagonists Doncann and Morag, whose touching union sustains the reader's interest throughout this gripping saga. Appropriately Macbeth-like levels of deviousness and power-lust mean that both protagonists not only have to face supernatural dangers but also very human ones both on the battlefield and from behind masks of friendship and supposed blood loyalty. Morag is an inspired creation. We watch as she develops from a feisty and spirited child, utterly fearless in the face of injustice to a wise and confident warrior Queen, possessed of a fearsome banshee wail that brings comfort to friends and devastation to foes.
One of the most interesting and pleasing aspects of this book is the way Blackmer treats his female characters. The women are accorded equal status to their male counterparts - they fight alongside the men on the front line of battle - yet their differences are still acknowledged. Women in HK have their own kind of magic (literally!) and despite the appearance of the occasional Druid it is the women who are the true guardians of the arcane knowledge that binds these ancient peoples together. The women inspire the men, the men fight for them (as well as alongside them) and the women further protect the men with their charms and spells. A spiritual equality and pragmatic recognition of gender differences co-exist within this ancient realm to breed a model of chivalry that has seemingly been lost to our own era; the wisdom of the ancients thus filters through the pages of HK. A singular achievement for Mr. Blackmer.
Elements of magical realism abound - people meet in dreams that affect their waking reality, deaths foretold inevitably come to pass, mystical stones transmit special powers and mythical creatures routinely interact with their earthly counterparts. Blackmer's skill makes all of this blithely acceptable and eminently satisfying to the reader - within a few chapters we are immersed in a fantasy environment that we accept unconditionally. Whilst I do find the phonetic dialogue within HK can grate occasionally, I nevertheless recognise that ultimately this device reinforces HK as a tale unfolding within a uniquely Scottish setting. This tiny caveat aside, in conclusion, I can heartily recommend HK to lovers of ancient history, lovers of Scotland and lovers of a good old-fashioned swashbuckling saga.
31 July, 2013
What's Scottish Gaelic for 'brilliant'? Highland King!
Watch the Highland King Book Trailer from You Tube.