I just have to quote and share this beautiful review of The Highland Queen which has been posted on Amazon.
The original post can be read HERE
As readers have come to expect from Karen Gray, the fourth installment of the epic high fantasy series the Saga of Thistles and Roses brings us not just narrative surprises, but lets us peek into the histories of characters both familiar and new. In The Highland Queen, Gray weaves the backstories of Rozzen, Rhona, Harry, Ava, and a new figure, the troubled, young Hamish Mackenzie, into one seamless tapestry of Albannach tragedy and victory. These backstories, as well as current relationships, play out through the majority of the novel, which takes place mostly in Alba as (in the overarching narrative) Morag works to unite the clans under her banner.
The story of Hamish Mackenzie in particular supports this larger story arc, as his troubled relationship with his parents creates the necessary tension that eventually sets up the finale. For it’s through Hamish’s mother that Morag is able not only to reunite with her foster parents, but meet a certain surviving ancestor (or two) with whom the clan has special ties.
And what an ancestor she has! I won’t give the twist away, but though we already knew Morag comes from less-than-ordinary stock, we didn’t know the half of it. And it’s not until Morag does meet this particular ancestor that she truly comes into her power and unites the clans to fight the Bastard King.
Sadly, though, tragedy continues to pursue Morag throughout the novel; though King Edward continues his persecution of her allies, he’s not the only villain. Several Highland clans – Morag’s own people – prove turncoats as well. We discover their historic treachery, as well as its personal consequences to Morag, and witness its continuing treachery, which culminates in destruction for both Hamish’s clan – and the consequences for said treachery.
That, I think, is one of the most compelling aspects, not just of this book, but of the series as whole. It’s easy enough to write tragedy, but Gray is consistently able to draw the line back to the historical origins of every tragedy she reveals. By doing so, she shows us that no selfish act is isolated, but instead ripples forward through time. Just as the pattern of an Albannach tartan is no accidental design, so the events of the novel’s present began in generations past, prompting the pattern of the whole of Alba’s history.
The events of the novel show us that any choice we make – even something as minor as failing to speak up at the right time – can have serious consequences beyond not just ourselves, but for everyone around us. We are not islands, she seems to say with this book – we are all each of us threads in the fabric of history.
I have to say… I’m feeling the warm fuzzies right now 🙂
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