Tuesday 23 April 2024

Audiobook Review - Queen Macbeth

After the reading slump Of March and the “meh”ness of reading Kimberley Chambers The Brothers and rereading Garth Nix’s Terciel and Elinor, I wanted to hit April with something different. Something with not only more punch and stories I can run to you guys at and go “Guys! Can I chew your ear off over this?!”

And, maybe even, tackle the books and ebooks that lovely publishers send me for review. 

So when this little novella of an audiobook came to my attention on NetGalley, I thought “Maybe something short will help me get out of my head and out of my funk.” (Plus, the cover looks awesome, doesn’t it?)

Title and Author:
Queen Macbeth by Val McDermid
Publisher: Birlinn General & W.F. Hopes Ltd
Bought, Borrowed or Gifted: Gifted by audiobook publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review/reaction
Buy From (Affiliate): uk.bookshop.org

A thousand years ago in the Scottish landscape, a woman with her three female companions - a healer, a weaver and a seer - are on the run. Men are hunting her down, as she is the only one who stands in the way between them and the violent ambition for power. She is the first queen of Scotland, married to a king named Macbeth. 

History might have written her as a murderer conspirator to her husbands, but here, she is a woman who has loved and lost, and this might cost her everything… 

This surprised me as, at the start, we had a small foreword from Val McDermid who told us that Macbeth and his wife were actually real people. Some details in Shakespeare’s play are true, but twisted due to artistic licence. For example, Macbeth killed his cousin (King Duncan I, in battle near Elgin. Not, as Shakespeare says in his play, in his bed. 

Now, the novella. I will admit that I did find this a tad slow and kept getting muddle with names at the start. But I think my reading funk is a factor in this as, if I was reading or listening to this again, I would find the pacing just right and I would know who’s who quite easily.

We, also, have a dual timeline: one where Queen Macbeth is on the run and the other where she first meets Macbeth. Once I found my footing, I really liked jumping back and forth as it gave us a better understanding of the woman who we are following: a woman who fell in love and, because of that, suffered later in life. 

For a novella, this packs a lot in and it packs a punch. Queen Macbeth doesn’t shy away from the brutality of the Scottish clans and, while it does skim over certain dark/gory moments, you get that this is a bloody, brutal and ruthless time for people, women especially. 

Am I going to come back to this? I don’t think so, but I really liked Val McDermid’s writing and her characters so I do think I shall return to her. I have a funny little feeling I might have something of her’s on my kindle [EDIT: I just checked and I do. Past Lying, which is the seventh in the Karin Pirie series. 
Hopefully, I can dive in without needing to have read the previous…]. 

Fans of the play should know that this is more in the line with history, rather than the play. No magic, but a dark grittiness that historical fiction readers will devour in one sitting.  

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