A while ago I reviewed the previous novel by Margaret Skea – Turn of the Tide – and ended that review expressing my hope for a sequel. At last – book number 2 in what I hope is at least a trilogy has arrived – A House Divided.
Set mainly in Scotland at the very end of the 16th century and at the time of the Great Scottish Witch Hunt (1597) the novel stands on its own, but for those who enjoyed Turn of the Tide it is certainly a very worthy follow up.
Again a factual long-standing clan feud between the Cunninghames and the Montgomeries underpins the story but now the key protagonist of the previous novel, Munro, is away from home serving with the Scots Garde fighting for the French King. And so his wife, Kate, a wise woman and healer, forced into hiding from William Cunninghame, takes centre stage in what has become an increasingly personal vendetta.
Meticulously researched and with a peppering of Scottish dialect adding to the sense of authenticity (don’t worry there is a comprehensive glossary on the back pages) this is a gripping novel. Tension, drama, violence and adventure lurk within the pages but there are also incredibly astute and tender portrayals of a variety of relationships and some wonderfully descriptive writing which brings the countryside and, indeed, the domestic environment to life.
Although there is an inevitability that Kate’s medical skills will attract the attention of those who hunt and persecute those whom they perceive as witches, and indeed her use of these same skills provides a tool for Cunninghame to use in his attempt to exact revenge, this in no way detracts from the tension and excitement of the novel, and the final chapters, with a desperate chase through mist and flood, certainly had me on the edge of my seat and unable to put the novel down.
There is plenty of material for book groups within the pages but the novel is, I think, first and foremost a gripping personal read. Indeed I can only conclude this review as I did when I reviewed the prequel by saying that I certainly hope there is another book to come. It is testament to Margaret Skea’s writing that we care enough about the characters within these pages to eagerly await the opportunity to find out what happened next.
A House Divided by Margaret Skea
978-0-9933331-0-1 Sanderling Books pbk Oct 2015
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