Sunday 7 May 2023

#BookReview - Culloden: Blood on the Moor by Joshua C Wells #HistoricalFiction #Scotland


Blood on the Moor
By Joshua C Wells

Publication Date: 30th September 2022
Publisher: Austin Macauley
Page Length: 254 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

As Bonnie Prince Charlie lands in Scotland, intent on regaining the British crown for the Stuarts, Gregor, a young, ostracised Highlander, has fallen in with a gang of murderous outlaws, whose actions lead him ever closer to a date with the hangman…

Meanwhile, Flora, a young, beautiful Scottish girl, finds herself visited by a ghostly and sinister hag, who wishes to involve her in the fate of the prince.

Both Gregor and Flora find the paths of their lives dramatically altered by the Bonnie Prince, and their futures dependent on the success or failure of the Jacobite rebellion. Futures which would ultimately be decided at the battle of Culloden…

**Spoiler Allert!** 

"The world is a complicated place...And there is nothing more complicated than the scheming of kings and princes."

The standard of Charles Edward Stuart has been raised, and it is only a matter of time before the clans flock to his cause. Charles is determined to claim his birthright—he is convinced that God is on his side. He just needs to convince the clans that he will lead them to victory, that he will lead them to glory.

The historical detailing of this story has to be commended, and it is backed up by confident research. The hours that Wells has dedicated to researching this period of history shine through in the enthralling, although often harrowing, narrative. I think it is fair to say that Wells has an almost visceral understanding of what makes history worth reading, and once started, I found myself reading this book well into the night. 

Bonnie Prince Charlie, is a name that, for anyone interested in Scottish history, is instantly recognisable. Wells has portrayed him as a man who is steadfast in his belief that it is his destiny, his right, to be crowned king, and not just of Scotland. He wants everything, he wants to restore the Stuart monarchy, and this makes him a very interesting historical character, and I thought Wells did a remarkable job in breathing life back into him. Likewise, I enjoyed following Gregor's story. I thought the contrast between Charles and Gregor's story gave this novel an added touch of time and place. It was really interesting to read about the man who was giving the orders and the one who was obeying them.

As this story progresses, the reader witnesses, first-hand, the breakdown between Charles and Lord Murray. I thought the relationship between these two men was fascinating. Charles refuses to listen to wise counsel, preferring to listen to men who say what he wants to hear. His arrogance, his almost delusional belief that God was on his side, and that he would succeed even when the odds were stacked against him was wonderfully depicted. I thought this relationship breakdown between Charles and Murray was beautifully portrayed and it really gives the reader an insight into the final days of the Jacobite Rebellion and it shines a light on the needless, countless deaths of men who should not have been asked to engage with a far superior force in a place such as Culloden where the terrain was not in their favour. It was a case of lambs being sent to slaughter, yet knowing they were being sent to the slaughter. I thought the battle of Culloden came across as not only harrowing but also chaotic. Charles, when he sees what is happening, what he has caused, falls into an unresponsive stupor and I could not help but feel sorrow, not for Charles, but for what he did, how many he was willing to sacrifice before he realised that the game was up. While he fled, Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland gave no quarter and I think that was one of the hardest parts to read because there was no forgiveness, the rebellion wasn't just doused, it was put to the sword, and all those lives that were lost were for nothing in the end. I think Wells did a really good job of portraying the senseless slaughter.

Culloden: Blood on the Moor is an immensely readable novel. You do not have to know anything about the Jacobite Rebellion to enjoy this story, for everything is explained and explored in explicit detail. The book is very battle-heavy, which is of no surprise considering the topic, but I thought the author brought a humanly emotional touch to the characters that made this story immensely enjoyable, even when the subject was quite dark in the telling.

There is no doubt that this book is a work of flawless historical scholarship. It is also a thrilling read that keeps the reader turning those pages until that final full stop. This is the kind of book that deserves not only a place on your bookshelf, but it is also one that demands to be read again and again. It is an impressively dramatic story and one that I cannot praise enough.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde 


Joshua C Wells lives in the south-west of England. His interest in military history has led him to writing novels based upon historic military campaigns.

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