A Dagger for Catherine Douglas
by Euan MacPherson

"...a second chance; and maybe I can say I am fighting on the right side this time."

This historical novel is about Scottish court life in the early 1400s. For readers who have visited an old castle, the book gives the structures they once encountered life and breath. But for those who haven't seen one in the flesh, the story comes to life anyway. The author describes life at court and castle architecture interestingly, but readers looking for action and adventure get it here, too. The main character, Catherine Douglas, is a lady-in-waiting who falls in love with a soldier who, as it turns out, isn't sure where his loyalties lie or what he stands for.

The book details the lives of knights and princesses and sword and dagger fights. The action never stops. Some fights are so well described that it can be hard to read without reaction. "There was a horrible snap, and the arm hung limply at the monk's side, broken at the elbow" is a perfect example of this.

The author shows incredible writing talent. The dialogue and descriptions are most notable. Humor in dialogue is hard to write well, but Macpherson nails it. For instance, "...You'll never see him," says one of the ladies-in-waiting to Douglas as she tries to convince her to agree to an arranged marriage. "You want me to marry a man I will never see?" asks Douglas."Those are the best kind...," replies her coworker. The reader can hear the conversation like a fly on the wall and laugh out loud with the characters.

Those unfamiliar with fifteenth-century European history won't know how the story ends until they finish reading. But even those who know the true ending of the reign of King James I will still enjoy reading every word of how Macpherson imagines it.

Return to USR Home