In King's follow-up to Lady Macbeth, Queen Margaret feeds the hungry and clothes the poor while war rages at home and abroad in 11th-century Scotland. Margaret transforms from devout exile into devout yet savvy queen when she marries King Malcolm Canmore, 18 years her senior and famous for killing Macbeth and his heir to the Scottish thrown. Newlywed Margaret first hears of Macbeth's unrepentant widow, Lady Gruadh, who has just sent her gifted granddaughter Eva to Malcolm's court to serve as bard, confidant, and spy. With Eva by her side, an emboldened Margaret embraces both Celtic and Latin religious traditions, aids the poor, frees prisoners, introduces the Scots to English manners, and helps negotiate peace. As she matures, Margaret's love for her husband and his people deepens and their relationship comes richly to life. Though clichés often plague the prose ("Tension and turbulence rode the air like dark clouds before a storm"), King's blend of historical figures and fictional characters turns a medieval icon into a believable mother, wife, and ruler. Quotes from original sources offer context and insight as to where the record ends and imagination begins - Publishers WeeklyI haven't read much on Scottish history and was curious to learn more about Margaret & Malcolm. I appreciated that King focused on the early part of Margaret's "career" and showed how she rose to power and adjusted to life in Scotland. Margaret surely is a model queen showing great generosity, piety and sense of tradition which helped transform Scotland.
I enjoyed the fictional female bard - Eva - that King created and used as narrator every other chapter. Eva allowed the reader to understand and "feel" the tension between the Northern Scotland - Lady Macbeth and the Southern Scotland - Malcolm. I did get a little lost in the battles between Malcolm and King William in England as well as following which relatives were siding with which leader.
King created a very subtle, but lovely love story and the book is well written. I felt the opening prologue lost its mystery because it took three-quarters of the book to get back to that scene again. I actually had to reread that chapter to remember what happened and how it related to the plot moving forward.