My hotel room overlooked the old harbour and it isn't difficult to imagine the galley fleets of the Lord of the Isles docked there. I say galleys, but these would have been Berlinns, small galleys with up to 18 oars that were the mainstay of the largely independent Lordship of the Isles. Nigel Tranter's fictional account of the life of Somerled is a good introduction to this period. For a real history I would recommend 'Kingdom of the Isles' by R.McDonald. I have never built a wargames army for this period but Viking types are a good starter. For a card cut out model visit the Comunn Birlinn site.
Carving of a Birlinn at Finlaggan
Anyway back to the subject of this blog. Being ill I finished my latest book The Road to Jerusalem by Jan Guillou. This is the first of his crusades trilogy and was made into a film in 2007. It tells the story of Arn de Gothia from his upbringing in 12th Century Sweden to becoming a Templar knight.
This series has had some good reviews, but I regret I can't agree with them. His early life in a monastery together with the domesticity of medieval Sweden doesn't exactly make a racy read. The action is an occasional diversion from this. The back cover describes the book as "An epic tale of bloody battles and deep held beliefs, of forbidden love and heroic people" - frankly this is seriously overhyped, particularly the 'bloody battles' bit.
The author clearly knows his subject - but he could have spared us a lot of the detail. After sleeping with two sisters he is banished to join the Knights Templar at the end of the the book. The rest of the trilogy therefore holds out more promise, although the pedestrian writing style will need to improve to tempt me to complete the trilogy.