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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
The Last Blast of the Trumpet: The Third Book in the Knox Trilogy by Marie Macpherson is a tale of skullduggery and political shenanigans that was the Scottish court in the mid-sixteenth century. John Knox, the great protestant reformer, has returned to Scotland to turn the Scots away from their heretical papist views and to the only true Christian faith, that of the Protestants. Unfortunately, his arrival has coincided with the ascension to the Scottish throne of the young and beautiful Mary, Queen of Scots, a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic. The Last Blast of the Trumpet is the final book in this series based on the life and works of John Knox. What follows is intrigue and double-dealing amongst the Scottish lords, as they play one off against the other, all in their own quest for more wealth and more power. The queen will need all her wits about her to thwart the reformatory spirit that is sweeping through the country but fortunately, she has some staunch allies in James Hepburn, the 4th Earl of Bothwell, and Isabelle Hepburn, the goddaughter of the Prioress of St Mary’s Abbey, who will do whatever it takes to ensure the queen’s safety and her continued reign.
The Last Blast of the Trumpet was a riveting and enthralling read. Author Marie Macpherson has taken these well-known, real-life characters from the annals of Scottish history and has created believable, relatable personas that readers can identify with and rally behind. Her writing is often in the vernacular of the time and that gives this historical novel a realism that might otherwise be missing. She manages to present the stark contrasts of the era – the pomp, ceremony, and pageantry of the elite compared to the grinding poverty and perilous existence of the general Scottish population. What I particularly enjoyed about this story was the intelligence, cunning, and bravery that the author infused into her female characters, especially Isabelle who for me was the real star of the story. The two things that stood out the most were the ravages of disease that could strike anyone regardless of their station or situation in life. Life was indeed perilous in those times and for John Knox to have achieved the ripe old age of around sixty was actually an aberration. Most people, rich or poor, were lucky if they made it past their forties, such was the pernicious nature of disease and violence in those times. The second point that seemed ironic in many ways was that in this incredibly paternalistic society where women were often treated as chattels, England and Scotland, for a time, were both ruled by women. I haven’t read the first two books in this trilogy but if this final effort is anything to go by, this is a series well worth the effort. I can highly recommend this read.