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  • Title: The Siege of Caerlaverock
  • Author: Barbara Henderson
  • Publisher: Pokey Hat (an imprint of Cranachan Publishing)
  • Publication Date: 6th August 2020

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Enemies within.

Enemies without.

Nowhere to hide.

12-year-old Ada is a laundress of little consequence, but the new castle commander Brian de Berclay has his evil eye on her. Perhaps she shouldn’t have secretly fed the young prisoner in the tower.

But when the King of England crosses the border with an army over 3000 strong, Ada, her friend Godfrey and all at Caerlaverock suddenly find themselves under attack, with only 60 men for protection.

Soon, rocks and flaming arrows rain from the sky over Castle Caerlaverock—and Ada has a dangerous choice to make.

My Thoughts:

Before I say anything about the story that has been magically woven by one of my favourite authors, can I just direct you to the stunning artwork that adorns the covers of this book. Granted, the image here doesn’t do it justice. The gold foil is magnificent, there’s a grandness to this book that comes from the cover alone, and that’s before you open the pages and get swept away by the wonderful writing and beauty of the illustrations that head each new chapter.

I’ve been a fan of Barbara Henderson’s writing for some years now, after falling in love with her debut Fir For Luck that was published in 2016, her name has been on my list to watch out for on social media for updates about new books. Barbara is a very approachable and friendly author, with an enthusiasm for history that has readers keen to find out more.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to see a siege through the eyes of a 12-year-old? If so, this is the book for you! In The Siege of Caerlaverock readers meet Ada and Godfrey, who despite their status form a true and powerful friendship. A laundress with a kind heart, compassion and the strength to face those who scare her makes young Ada the sort of character that many readers will instantly connect with and take into their hearts. Godfrey, the new Page boy to Lord Maxwell, is young but brave. And while their time together is short, it is definitely packed with excitement, danger and bravery.
What stands out the most for me throughout this entire story is how real these characters felt. I cared what happened to them, I worried about them being injured or harmed by those who wished them ill, I wondered what happened to them after I finished reading the book. Not only does Barbara Henderson bring her characters to life, she brings the scenes alive too. Carefully weaving historical fact and detail together, this is a read that plays to the senses of the audience. You can almost smell “that “ smell (you’ll know it when you get to that part), you can feel the chill in the air, you can feel the ground underfoot as Ada crosses the courtyard into the castle and goes about her day … you are truly transported when you read on of Barbara’s books. Forget VR headsets and programmes, just read a book by Barbara for that total immersion!

With each new book that she writes, I think there’s no way she can better what she’s already penned, but somehow she does. And although her books may feature a main character that is a child, they can be read by any aged reader. Her books can be loved by any aged reader, and this reader certainly loves them!


And if my review wasn’t enough to get your attention, I have a wonderful post from Barbara about her love of castles to share with you, along with some fantastic pictures.
Grab a cuppa and a cheeky biscuit, and read on!

My Enduring Fascination with Castles – by Barbara Henderson

I love a good castle story – mainly because I can think of no better place to set a tale than a castle – be it the tall and imposing kind or the crumbling ruin. From my bedroom window in the house I grew up in, I could see a medieval lookout tower on the horizon. Peeking out among the tall pine trees which clad the hill, it was a constant signal from the past. Who stood there and looked out over the rolling hills at night? Who sent word that enemy armies were on the move? The building itself acted as a fertiliser for my already overactive imagination.

I also grew up near Schloss Homburg – an incredibly well-preserved medieval stronghold in the part of Germany where I grew up. If we had visitors, that’s where we’d take them. The castle also put on plenty of events and re-enactments – bringing the past to life in such an engaging way. I built castles from rocks and bricks on our living room floor, never far from the old spinning wheel my mother still has. It looked like it had come straight out of a Grimm’s fairy tale! German folklore and fairy tales are largely rooted in the medieval period and their appeal continues. The very first play I saw performed live in a theatre, a few years later, was a medieval love story between a knight and a lady of the castle. I was hooked – on Drama and on history, and both of these have gone on to play major roles in my life. I now work as a Drama teacher and write historical stories for young people.

In 1991, I moved to Scotland to study – the CASTLES! I lived a stone’s throw from Edinburgh Castle, and everything about that city simply evokes the past, in so many ways which really fuelled my imagination. In all weathers, the old stonework took on a new hue and I felt small – in a good way. I wa simply part of the flow of history while the stones stayed still. A move to Aberdeenshire beckoned. Choosing a house for our young family was easy – the one at the beginning of the clifftop walk to Dunnottar Castle would do nicely, thank you very much. Our children wore the primary school uniform with pride: the badge was a picture of the castle ruin. We joined the national Trust for Scotland and Crathes, Drum and Fraser castles became our alternate weekend hangouts.

Now living in the Highlands with our teenagers, there were new crumbling stones to discover, new stories to unearth. The landscape and the built heritage here evokes the past like few other places. Inverness castle is now my most frequently visited dog-walk destination, sometimes twice a day. It may not be as old and as impressive as some of its predecessors, but for now it’s mine. This was especially true of lockdown. Normally, the esplanade is crowded with tourists, but for four whole months it felt like I had it to myself – me and the statue of Jacobite heroine Flora MacDonald. 

Even on holiday, we tend to seek out a castle if we can. And so it happened that on a very rainy April day in 2018, I stumbled upon Caerlaverock Castle and its medieval history. Within seconds through the door of the exhibition I was hooked. The huge missiles which crashed at the castle walls in 1300 were displayed in real size. The accompanying displays told the tale of the siege, the David and Goliath story of 60 versus three thousand.  It had all the drama I could possibly ask for, and the highest of stakes. Above all, it had the very best setting for an adventurous and atmospheric tale: a medieval castle. I hope that many others will be inspired to visit Caerlaverock, and that they will be fascinated and enchanted with the place as I was.

I may never live in a castle of my own, but dotted around this fantastic country, these buildings are nothing less than windows into the past. They are ours to enjoy and ours to protect.

A gift, and a responsibility too. What is your favourite castle? 
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