James Gault reviews The Castle of the Red-Haired Maidens by Rob Burton
The combination of brutal reality and supernatural fantasy in this novella reminds me of ancient Norse myths or perhaps the scenario for a Wagner opera. The period and the setting is just right, and so too is the dark, tempestuous atmosphere that the author creates.
The story is set during the Middle Ages in Scotland, at a time of two great struggles. The new Christian religion was battling with the ancient myths and beliefs of the old religions, and at the same time the indigenous Celts were fending of raids and invasions of Norse Vikings. It was a time of rape and pillage; an era of extreme cruelty and violence. Treaties were made and broken by devious warlords on both sides, and women were treated as chattels and sacrificed to the lust of common soldiers and the political expediency of the ruthless barons and clan chiefs. It was a time when morality was having an extended holiday.
All of this is depicted graphically in a fast moving story of betrayal, flight and revenge. The beautiful Nye flees an unwanted arranged marriage and falls into the hands of one violent ruthless marauding band after another, suffering worse and worse degradations at every turn.
A warning – do not read this if you are squeamish. But if scenes of horrific violence don’t deter you, it is a great read.
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