“And tell me, will we never hear the end
Of puir bluidy Charlie at Culloden yet again?”
— Brian McNeill, “No Gods and Precious Few Heroes”
Review: Culloden!, William Meikle, 2016.
As in our history, Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Bloodking, has a rendezvous with destiny at Culloden, and much of this novel takes place in Scotland.
In some ways, this, the conclusion of the Watchers trilogy, is more leisurely than its successors. Oh there are battles and gladiatorial combats and lots of bloods and new methods of killing vampires en masse. (I would like to see the final battle at Culloden in a graphic novel or movie, so I could linger on the details Meikle doesn’t get into.)
But there’s also a lot of time spent with ale and agony, song and memories. I suppose some might view that as padding, but I liked hearing the back stories of the supporting characters including the Prince, and I also liked Meikle smuggling in a bit of his inner musician with invented ballads. I could almost hear them being sung.
Here Sean and Martin have largely come to terms with not being “men-and-only-men”. Sean’s strange amalgam of man and vampire proves handy in infiltrating the Edinburgh stronghold of the Bloodking. Martin has learned to control the wolf-like berserker side of himself. Sean is still on the trail of Mary Campbell, the Bloodking’s intended, and Martin has been sent into Scotland on a reconnaissance mission by the Duke of Cumberland to make sure Bonnie Prince Charlie is found, fixed, and destroyed.
Meikle’s killing of some of my favorite characters in The Battle for the Throne cranked up the apprehension about who was going to survive the book. That included our two heroes Sean and Martin.
Duty and friendship remain a main theme here.
Did I have some problems with the book?
It’s more of a personal quirk than Meikle’s problem, but my eyes often glaze over at mysticism, and there is some here with the natural and occult forces gathering in Sean. Also, the pacing was so good I didn’t want to take time to figure it all out but to get on with the story. Said explanation of things is provided by one of the Seton clan who show up in many Meikle tales. I did approve of the unexpected guest appearance by one of Scotland’s more famous denizens.
I also didn’t get an answer to how the Christian characters were going to deal with their religion seeming to be a corrupt, if more benign, version of a vampire cult.
There is also a vampire character here who is particularly nasty to the human parents that adopted him as an infant. Yet, we hear about only love and joy between him and his parents when he was alive. I assume he’s here to not just be a foil for Martin but also to illustrate how a vampire’s personality and relationships are profoundly changed from when they were human. At least, I didn’t get the impression there was a justification in his life for his physical and verbal viciousness towards his parents after he turns. Still, I wanted this made a bit clearer.
Those are just minor quibbles. I actually enjoyed this series quite a lot.