"The Last Blast of the Trumpet" by Marie Macpherson, is the third book in her Knox trilogy. It takes up the story in 1559 when conflict, chaos and corruption are rife in Reformation-era Scotland. John Knox has recently returned home to lead the reform and is confident of success. However, the country is on the brink of civil war and neither side can be sure of who their supporters are. During the dying days of the regent Marie de Guise's reign, Knox seeks the reassurance of his allies that they will support him. But with the young Queen Mary returning to Scotland to claim her throne, he can't be sure which of those who offer their support are true friends and which are wolves in sheep's clothing. And when Mary does arrive, though she is still very young and recently widowed, Knox faces a fierce battle of wills with her from the start, as they compete for the hearts and minds of the Scottish people.
Marie Macpherson writes with an easy style, but includes a wealth of detail. It is possible to step into the lives of the characters in the book and get a sense of what they experienced at the time. The historical content seems well researched and the story she weaves around both people and places is extremely realistic. We learn about Mary and her somewhat haphazard approach to life and loyalty, and we get under Knox's skin as he grapples with delivering the true faith whilst seeking to banish Catholicism and those who would practise it. But we also learn much about Knox the man, the husband and father. At this point, whilst Mary is still young and tireless, Knox is a man in his fifties with a young wife and family and day to day responsibilities that weigh more heavily as the years go by. Does he have the mental and physical strength to keep up the fight and lead those who would follow his thinking? Can Mary gain the acceptance and support she craves, to make her mark on her country and preserve the Catholic faith?
The characterisation in "The Last Blast of the Trumpet" is superb. We are introduced to the Prioress Elizabeth, whose roll as confidante and supporter of Mary de Guise is unfailing. But Elizabeth is also godmother to Knox and carries a dark secret about his early life. We also meet Isobelle, her ward, who she sees as the one to take up the roll of prioress at her passing. Isobelle is in the mould of Elizabeth and is strong and fearless. She remains one of the key supporters of the crown and the Catholic faith throughout. There is also a long cast list of lords and men of high office whose allegiance seems to change by the day, but whose role in fuelling the flames of conflict is unrelenting. Among them is the handsome Bothwell, whose staunch support of the Queen makes him one of her most powerful allies, though others would seek to discredit him.
Those who know their history will be well aware that this story is told against the background of one of the most critical phases in Scottish history. The fact that the fates of both Mary, Queen of Scots and John Knox, rebel reformer, are well documented does nothing to take away any enjoyment from this beautifully crafted novel. The Scottish landscape that Marie Macpherson creates for her characters to inhabit is absolutely believable. "The Last Blast of the Trumpet" lets the reader immerse themselves in a past world that is both fascinating and compelling.