Review: The Battle for the Throne, William Meikle, 2016.
In the second book of the Watchers trilogy, families are formed and families sundered, castles are besieged and castles infiltrated. Our two heroes, Martin and Sean, will doubt themselves and their new natures.
In The Coming of the King, the Bloodking, Bonnie Prince Charles, swept over Hadrian’s Wall nearly taking Milecastle, Martin and Sean’s home. Here he rampages through England with the advantage that, unlike our Bonnie Prince Charlie, his victims join his vampiric army.
Meikle cranks up the action with this book. There are many battles here, well-done, more than in the previous book. But there are quieter moments I also liked. Martin, now Thane of Milecastle after the death of his father, hears old men tell him about his father as a young man.
Except for the equivalent of jump cuts in the concluding chapter, Meikle presents Martin’s and Sean’s stories in alternating chapters.
Sean heads north, into vampiric Scotland, to rescue Mary Campbell, intended bride of the Bloodking, before the child in her womb can be converted to the Prince’s vampire heir. With him, goes Mary’s father, Duncan.
Martin heads south to join the Protector of England’s forces, headed up by the Duke of Cumberland who seems about as ruthless here as our historical version. With him goes Menzies, his father’s old friend and aide.
But both fear they are no longer men. Sean, in the concluding battle of the last book, was bitten by a vampire with the inevitable effects beginning to show. Martin is seemingly some kind of werewolf now as the result of an encounter with a wolf in the previous book.
I rather liked the mythology of the Picts that we learn about in Sean’s trip north, and there are more evil Templars here and a dark rite in Ross-Lynn Chapel with Baphomet’s head.
Naturally, the big question – will the Bloodking reign over Scotland and England – is unresolved in a middle book of a trilogy. However, for some of the characters, things are going to be conclusively and sadly resolved.
An entertaining story of blood and battle, duty and memory, and two men who must come to grips with their new natures.