Allegiance of Blood Book Review
By Robert Nichols
Tuesday 31 Mar 2020 17:24:00
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Set in the aftermath of the bloody Battle of Edgehill, Mark Turnbull has thrown us headlong into the opening gambits of the English Civil War. It is Royalists against Parliament but also neighbour against neighbour, even families divided. A shocking, brutal time but compelling reading.

The new author has skilfully woven his fictional hero Sir Francis Berkeley into the fabric of a country divided by belief and war. We have an edge of the seat ride through a time of danger, intrigue but of big ideas. Sir Francis is a royalist but will need to face up to friends fighting for the Parliamentary cause. He will also experience turncoats and espionage, some of it rather too close to home, in this human drama from a most incendiary decade of history.

The weekend before our self isolation began my football match was cancelled and so by chance I was able to attend an event about the English Civil War at Stockton's Green Room. There were talks on the three battles in Teesside from historian Phil Philo. The wonderful Civil Insolencies was performed live by poet Bob Beagrie and a band of musicians putting the 17th century battle of Guisborough into dramatic words and music.

In between the two, new north eastern writer Mark Turnbull introduced his debut book. I bought it, read it and was immediately transported back to 1642 and believe me that is not a very comfortable place to be.

Mark pitches you into the bloody battlefield at Edgehill. It is a frightening place to be. Danger lurks around every corner, on the end of a pike or perhaps from political or family feud, subterfuge and intrigue. The fictional family of Sir Francis Berkeley is pitched headlong into a political narrative that I previously knew little about, the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

Mark uses all his experiences as a battlefield re-enactor to make the pages sing with gunpowder and deadly drama. His extensive research gives us pen portraits of all the major characters and conspirators, from the diminutive King Charles 1 to his 6ft 4” dashing Prince Rupert or the ailing parliamentarian foe, Pym or cautious general, Lord Essex.

But this is a drama that is very personal to Sir Francis and his family and as such it really draws you all too close to the heat and heart of the action. As a historical novel I put this debut right up there with the major players like Hilary Mantel. The characters are so well drawn, so rounded, if not roundhead and all too believably fallible. Allegiance of Blood is sitting up and begging to be adapted for tv or film.

Dive into this book and you come up with a real understanding of a period of internal strife that helped shape this nation. Torn apart community from community, even between neighbours and within families. Who will you trust? And how will you survive when the Parliamentary power and powder has you hemmed into a corner?

Exceptional read. Nothing has brought this most un-civil strife and times so vividly to life for me as this book.

Allegiance of Blood

Mark Turnbull


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