Tuesday 8 September 2020

#BookReview — The Fire of Winter by DK Marley #HistoricalFiction #Shakespeare @theRealDKMarley

The Fire of Winter

By DK Marley


She is known as Lady Macbeth.

What leads her down the path of murder?

What secrets fire her destiny?

Gruah, the granddaughter of King Cìnéad III of the Royal Clan Alpin, marries two men in less than six months, one she loves and one she hates; one in secret, the other arranged by the High King of Scotland. At the age of eighteen, she lays her palm upon the ancient stone of Scone and sees her destiny as Queen of Scotland, and she vows to do whatever necessary to see her true love, Macbeth macFindlaech, beside her on the throne. Amid the fiery times and heated onslaughts from Denmark and England, as the rule of Scotland hangs in the balance, Gruah seeks to win the throne and bring revenge upon the monsters of her childhood, no matter the cost or amount of blood tainting her own hands; yet, an unexpected meeting with the King called the Confessor causes her to question her bloody path and doubt her once blazing pagan faith. Will she find redemption or has the blood of her past fire-branded her soul?

The story weaves the play by William Shakespeare with the actual history of Macbeth and his Queen in 11th-century Scotland. “...a woman's story at a winter's fire...” (Macbeth, Act III, Scene IV)


"'Twas what we wanted, remember?"

But as the army, led by Malcolm Canmore, the Earl of Northumbria, and MacDubh march ever closer, it is difficult to remember why they had wanted this power, this responsibility, for it had brought them nothing but heartache.


Determined to marry her true love, Macbeth macFindlaech, Gruah, daughter to Boite MacCinead and distant kin to King Mael Colium, risks the wrath of the king. But with ambition in her heart and the pagan gods by her side, Gruah fears no one. But she is not satisfied to just marry the man she loves. She wants more, she wants Scotland, and she will stop at nothing to be crowned queen.


Do you think you know the story of Lady Macbeth? Think again!


From a child's desperate suffering to nights filled with nightshade and poppy induced dreams, The Fire of Winter by DK Marley is the untold story of Lady Macbeth. A woman's whose crown, like her hands, would be forever stained with the blood of her enemies.


When ambition goes unchecked by moral constraints, and when one decides to use violence to further one's quest for power, the results are a kingship that is forged in tyranny. For those who love Shakespeare, then one would be familiar with his infamous Scottish play. Marley has taken this story one step further and presented her readers with a book that is rich in historical detail, mythology, pagan rituals, and fatalistic violence.


This novel is epic in the telling, and I was immediately enchanted with the compelling narrative and the emotional prose that kept me turning those pages long into the night. This is a story that is filled with cliff-hanger tension and historical controversy. The Fire of Winter is a novel that does not just threaten to mesmerise — it does.


The Fire of Winter is the story of one woman who is determined to never again be in a position where she is vulnerable and open to attack. But Marley asks her readers what you would do if you found yourself in a similar situation? Would you seek revenge, or would you try to forget, move on with your life? The latter is not an option for Gruah (Lady Macbeth), for fate plays her a ruthless hand. She has to act, or she will be forever lost.


The fire that burns in Gruah's very soul, the passion in which she approaches life at the beginning of the book is the very thing that leads her onto a road that takes her to her own predestined damnation. Gruah is the perfect example of an anti-hero, and although the reader can sympathise with her plight, she becomes, later on in the novel, someone who is unrecognisable even to herself. There were times when I lost all sympathy for this character, but at the same time, as she spirals out of control, I could not help but remember the young, innocent girl at the beginning of the book. The tragedy of this story is not the many lives that Gruah sacrifices to get what she wants, but it is the knowledge that perhaps, in the end, she gets what she deserves. I thought Marley's portrayal of Grauh was fabulous. This is a character that both appalled and impressed in almost equal measures. 


The "witches" in this novel, are not of the supernatural kind but are instead the daughters of a man who used their mother very poorly and treated them even worse. With an explanation as to how these sisters came to meet with Macbeth on that fateful day at Forres, one cannot help but sympathise with them because, along with Macbeth, they are used to further one woman's ambition. Marley has wavered slightly from the interpretation that Shakespeare presented to his audience. They may be disfigured and shunned from society, but these women are not hags, nor are they evil. They are a product of their time and the circumstances of their birth. Marley does, however, give the nod to Shakespeare by using excerpts from his play to depict the mythical women that one has, after almost four hundred years, come to associate with the story of the Scottish king whose throne was saturated with the blood of the innocent. I thought the depiction of the sisters was very vivid in the telling.


Macbeth is a man swept up in his desires for Gruah, but he also fears that the king is leaning away from the tanistry rights of old, in favour of leaving the throne to his son. Macbeth is a strong contender for the throne, but he is wary. It isn't until he becomes infatuated with Gruah and then allows himself to be so cruelly manipulated that he begins to follow a path of savagery that will ultimately lead to his ruin. Macbeth is a man who promised much, but whose actions haunt him until the day he dies. At times Macbeth is blinded by his love for Grauh. He is a good man, but he is misled. Does that make him a weak man, incapable of thinking for himself? Perhaps. But it also made his story shamelessly compelling. I thought Macbeth was fabulously portrayed. He was a character that I enjoyed reading about.


The battle between Christianity and paganism is also played out between the pages of this book. As Gruah seeks forgiveness for her sins, she looks to the Church, but her pagan beliefs and her shame stop her from receiving the absolution that she so desperately needs. Marley has a clear understanding of how Christianity managed to take hold in a country that was ripe with superstition and pagan practices, and I thought the comparison between the two vastly different beliefs was vividly portrayed. 


The Fire of Winter by DK Marley is a novel of exceptional scholarship. This is a novel that will hook a reader in from the opening sentence and will not let go until that final full stop. 


I Highly Recommend.


Review by Mary Anne Yarde.

The Coffee Pot Book Club.



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DK Marley

DK Marley is a historical fiction writer specializing in Shakespearean themes. Her grandmother, an English professor, gave her a volume of Shakespeare's plays when she was eleven, inspiring DK to delve further into the rich Elizabethan language. Eleven years ago she began the research leading to the publication of her first novel "Blood and Ink," an epic tale of lost dreams, spurned love, jealousy and deception in Tudor England as the two men, William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe, fight for one name and the famous works now known as the Shakespeare Folio.


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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx