Droughtlander takes its toll on each and every Outlander fan. We scramble around finding books, shows, and events to fill the void while awaiting a new season. As Voyager comes to an end, we find ourselves in the doldrums, like Claire and Jamie, without our weekly episodes.
Often times, we search for a reprieve from these long never-ending months seeking anything Scottish, especially something historical. In our quest to find some sort of diversion, an opportunity arose for us to dive back in time to the era of Robert the Bruce with a novel entitled The Spider and the Stone.
Let us take you there with our review of this story…
The Spider and the Stone by Glen Craney fits the bill to satiate the need for a Scottish anecdote in the past. It’s a historical fiction narrative centered around Black Douglas. There is adventure, war, love, and sacrifice. The setting for this tale is Medieval Scotland. As with Outlander, it’s great to see strong female characters such as Isabelle MacDuff. Loyal friendships and strong convictions among other characters, like Black Douglas, are also evident and reminiscent of Outlander.
According to Glen Craney’s website, the plot is described as follows:
“As the 14th century dawns, the brutal King Edward Longshanks of England schemes to steal Scotland. But a frail, dark-skinned boy named James Douglas—inspired by a headstrong lass from Fife named Isabelle MacDuff—defies three Plantagenet kings and champions the cause of his wavering friend, Robert the Bruce, leading the armies to the bloody field of Bannockburn. A thrilling historical saga of star-crossed love and heroic sacrifice during the Scottish Wars of Independence.”
This award winning book incorporates historical figures and locales while interweaving fiction with fact. When reading, one can visualize the landscape of Scotland and the bloody battles. The reader can definitely connect to the heartache and anger of various characters as well. Favorite heroes and loathed villains emerge, depart, and reappear throughout the story. Themes such as alienation, ambition, betrayal, dedication, and courage are easily recognized throughout the story.
Of course, we don’t want to give away the plot and events of the novel, but let us build a bit of the historical background upon which the story is set.
It starts off with Robert and James meeting as youngsters fighting off the Comyn boys during a contest to win the hand of Isabelle MacDuff. This alliance formed a life-long bond between the future king and determined warrior. From there, the tale continues with many more adventures for these two.
Robert the Bruce reigned as Scotland’s king from 1306 to 1329. He led Scotland into the First War of Scottish Independence, fighting against England.
Isabelle MacDuff Comyn was the Countess of Buchan, married to John Comyn, the Earl of Buchan. While her husband took the English side of the Scottish Wars, she continued to support Scotland. She crowned Robert the Bruce king in 1306 at Scone, Scotland. After an act of betrayal by the Earl of Ross against Robert the Bruce, she was imprisoned in a hanging cage for several years.
John “Red” Comyn was a Scottish Nobleman. The Comyns had a rivalry with the Bruce family. This conflict was a strong part of The Spider and the Stone. In the book, Red is Isabelle’s father-in-law. In reality, he was a cousin to her husband John Comyn, Earl of Buchan.
James Douglas was a Scottish warrior known as Black Douglas. His father, Sir Willian Douglas, was a noble supporter of William Wallace. This is the male protagonist in the novel by Glen Craney. The tale begins with James as a boy and follows his life. Throughout, he remains loyal to Robert the Bruce. The storyline catches one’s attention with James Douglas. This strong, courageous and loyal character becomes a favorite hero. The historical liberties taken in the book in regards to James’ and Robert’s friendship, as well as James’ relationship with Isabelle, become the heart of the story and urges the reader to find out what will happen next.
The Stone of Destiny, also known as Stone of Scone, was used in coronation ceremonies of Scottish kings. It was said that it would scream to proclaim the chosen king. It was taken by King Edward I and was then kept in London at Westminster Abbey. It remained in English possession for 700 years until it was returned to Scotland on St. Andrews Day (November 30) 1996. It is now kept in the Crown Room of Edinburgh Castle.
The Spider comes from a legend regarding the inspiration Robert the Bruce gained from watching a spider in a cave try and try again to build its web after falling time after time. To read The Spider and Robert the Bruce Short Story, click here.
If you’re looking for Scottish historical fiction in order to get yourself through yet another Droughtlander, pick up a copy of Glen Craney’s The Spider and the Stone. The novel is intriguing and historically accurate with a few twisted facts added in order to heighten the plot.
It is similar to our all-time-favorite series, Outlander, and its characters in several ways. Isabelle is a strong female protagonist. James (or Jamie, a-hem) is a trustworthy ally and strong warrior. Though Isabelle and James spend quite a bit of time apart, their love endures, just as Jamie and Claire’s in Outlander. The Comyns are just about as deceptive as Black Jack Randall. Additionally, the setting of Scotland long ago keeps it all in the same realm, although different timeline, than Outlander.
We find this to be a good adventure story, filled with Scotland and history, to tide us over until Outlander Season 4 begins. Give it a read!
References as of 12/10/2017:
All photos from our blogs are owned by Timeless Sass3nach Journeys, unless noted or attributed. The use of our photos is not permitted unless consent is given.