Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Bleeding Land by Giles Kristian

The Civil War is a subject I feel I should know more about, so I was very pleased to receive this book as part of Transworld's Historical Fiction Challenge.

The story is set in the events leading up to the Civil War and the early part of the War itself. We see it through the eyes of two brothers, Edmund (Mun) and Tom Rivers. They are not aristocracy, but are well-to-do and their father is a Member of Parliament. It is during a visit to London with their father that the brothers realise how divided the country is, and how dangerously close to war.

Everyone knew that as MP for Ormskirk Sir Francis Rivers felt it his duty to keep one ear to Westminster's ancient flagstone floor, but now Mun suspected their father was beginning to think they should have left the city that very morning. For angry crowds of apprentices swarmed around Westminster, converging on Whitehall, and the whisper was that many amongst the nobility had already retreated to their estates."Even the King has quit the city for Windsor," Sir Francis had said. A hot fever was taking a grip of London.

Alongside the big picture of what is happening in the country we also see the more personal story of the Rivers family and how they are affected by everything that is happening. It has an impact on local politics, bullies are emboldened and see an opportunity to grab power. People are forced to take sides, and Mun and Tom take different sides.

I thought that this was a really good story, full of action and incident. It was interesting to see big events  from the perspective of individual, not very important people. I got a sense of how terrifying the whole thing must've been for ordinary people, with no power, completely at the mercy of the opposing armies.

They had come from all across the West Lancashire plain, whole families flocking to Shear House and other estates whose protection they sought against the armed rebels who rode across the country preaching their sedition, decrying their king, beating some who would not waver in their loyalty to His Majesty, and even, sometimes, stringing up those they suspected of papism.

A quick warning to the squeamish (of whom I am one), there is an execution scene quite early in the book which stayed with me a long time after I read it. But that's the worst of it and there's nothing so bad in the rest of the story.


  1. Hi Joanne, thanks for reading and taking the trouble to post your thoughts. I'm thrilled you enjoyed the tale (though sorry about the execution scene - if it makes you feel any better, I was queasy just writing it!) Did you see the trailer we had fun making? (link below) It's not every day one gets to fire a matchlock musket. Well, thanks again. Giles Kristian.

  2. You're very welcome Giles, I enjoyed reading it. The character of Prince Rupert was one I was particularly interested in, I'll be on the lookout for a biography of him.