Nicola Pierce's latest novel follows the story of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 through the eyes of a variety of characters. The book can be read as a stand alone tale or as a sequel to her previous book Behind the Walls which dealt with the siege of Derry in 1689, as two characters from Behind the Walls also feature in the new book; brothers Robert and Daniel Sherrard. Also featured in the book are a young cavalry man Gerald O'Connor, his Parisien friend Jacques, their companions Michael and Joseph and a County Down farmer Jean Watson as well as King James and King William and their various advisors. Through the winter and spring of 1690 we see the young friends camping out and travelling wherever they are sent by the leaders of their armies as the day of battle draws ever closer, we learn of their fears and worries as they talk and write letters home and we see how they are changed by army life as they are forced to make decisions they never thought they would have to make including taking horses and livestock from hungry families and turning their backs on loved ones.
Finally the day of battle approaches and we learn the fate of all the characters we have grown close to. Nicola Pierce is a fantastic storyteller and here she condenses a number of complicated political and military events and makes them brilliantly readable and enjoyable. Her gift for bringing characters to life through their dialogue, interactions and quirks is uncanny and in a fantastic scene with Jacques, his girl Nancy and our young hero Gerald the three youngsters visit a bookshop in Drogheda. Gerald is a great lover of books and determined to purchase a gift for his sister but short of money he fears he will have to leave his chosen book behind, his friends however insist on helping him out. It's a wonderful little aside which beautifully demonstrates the author's skill at building characters that readers cannot help but root for. However that said there are also scenes which depict the ordinary soldiers on the other side of the battle lines. Throughout the author remains completely impartial in her storytelling. Even when it comes to describing the blunders and misjudgement of the leaders the story unfolds without judgement. This book is published by O'Brien Press for children aged 9 and upwards but I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Irish and British history.
Thanks very much to O'Brien Press for sending me a copy to review.