Member Reviews

I was excited to read this book, but was let down. This was lacking character development, felt chaotic that like huge pieces of a story were missing to have it all come together or make sense.
Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for access to this e-ARC.

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Seeing as it's probably not acceptable to review a book simply with the eyeroll emoji, I'll lay out what exactly irked me about this book.
First, there was barely any substance to this book, even for a novella. It is severely lacking in plot. I have no idea what this book was even about because the author gave absolutely no context to what was happening at any time. All we know is that Macbeth is more than likely dead, and the other characters are on the run. From what? Who knows! Who cares, either, apparently; certainly not the author, or she would have given us a little more detail.
Characterization was also a major issue. So many characters felt interchangeable, while most were completely blank slates. Even Gruoch (Lady/Queen Macbeth) felt rather blank and completely passive, and we never saw Macbeth himself beyond a few lacklustre conversations and a sex scene. I'm not sure how the author expects her readers to root for, or even care about, these characters if we know next to nothing about them.
The way McDermid writes women and men kind of icked me out, because every woman was beautiful and highly feminine (as all women apparently are in this world...), while all men are tyrants who are divided into honorable masculine men and weak men whose lives and deaths don't matter. It felt very TERFy, and knowing that McDermid identifies as a RadFem, I feel like there might be a reason for that...
The book also is distinctly lacking in any kind of emotion. Many characters die throughout the course of this story, but their deaths came and went, and even though the narrator said she was devastated, I just felt kind of bored or disappointed when I read these scenes. Similarly, I was not invested at all in Macbeth and Gruoch's romance because the writing didn't give me anything to hang onto or even begin to understand why she was interested in him, other than that he was her cousin (ah, royalty...) and it was prophesied that he would give her a son.
The dual timelines also make absolutely no sense because there is absolutely no connection from one section to the next, as there should be when writing stories this way. Whether or not the characters can see the parallels or not, the reader definitely should be able to see them, but there were none to be seen. Just random jumping back and forth between Macbeth fucking Gruoch, to Gruoch and her women (and Angus) hiding out in the wilderness, back to Gruoch who is now pregnant, and then to Angus changing in the tall grass so none of the women can see his dick. It felt completely random and pointless, but I suppose if McDermid had told the story chronologically, it would have been more obvious that there was no plot.
McDermid has a few interesting ideas, I suppose, and the general outline of what could be a good retelling of the Macbeth story, but she doesn't deliver on any of these ideas, and she doesn't achieve the goals she lays out in her opening author's note.
If I could unread this book, I would.

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Queen Macbeth is the fifth novel of the Darkland Tales series, novellas which reimagine events central to Scottish history. In this riveting story, MacDermid tells the story of Gruoch, the woman who married Macbeth and became the first queen of Scotland. The story is very different than Shakespeare’s version, (which scholars in any case agree is historically inaccurate). The author’s note at the beginning explains her decision to use Gruoch’s name rather than her title, and further explains that although much of her history is known, there is also room for imagination in the details.

The story begins with Grouch and her three ladies making a dramatic escape from the small island monastery where they have lived since Macbeth’s death four years earlier. The story alternates with Gruoch’s memories of meeting and falling in love with Macbeth, which provides a nice backdrop to current events.

I have Scottish ancestry and so have eagerly devoured much information about Scottish history and culture. This short book was fun to read and gave me a new perspective on Macbeth’s story. I admit I was disappointed that it was so short. The story was well told and the characters interesting. Many thanks to Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for offering me the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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Queen Macbeth is a captivating story filled with adversity, adventure, laughter, love, and defiance. This gripping tale took me on a journey through the trials and triumphs of a powerful queen.

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I was looking forward to reading this book and had a very high expectations. Sorry to say, I was dissapointed with this book.
Such a story needed to be told in depth, however here it felt rushed and surficelevel. We had 4 strong women, however we don't know almost anything about them. I couldn't even tell how they looked, what colour their hair was, what they liked or disliked. We even don't know basics about them. Feels like some four randoms names were just throun in to a book.
Talking about the story itself, it was like you were reading from a middle of a book. We have no idea what is happening, why people are chased, who are enemies ang who are allies. Once again people are mentioned at random, without any backstory.
It wasn't a story, more of a summary of a story that could have been.

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This is a delightful historical retelling of the lives of Macbeth and Gruoch his queen. I generally find that folks love to learn about the true stories of Shakespearean characters. I received this as a Netgalley ARC, but I cannot wait to listen to it in Scottish dialect for their were enough words to warrant a glossary. McDermid's work is so fabulous read aloud. I heartily recommend all her books in audio; she has a gift for the lyrical as well as the slang of the Scots. I only wish this had been longer. I think the 3 "sisters" character development was brilliant and only wished to know more.

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Val McDermid did a great job reimagining the story of Lady Macbeth. He prefaces that little is known about the couple, and historians have discovered that Shakespeare's version needs to be revised. The author did his research. The storyline challenges historical narratives by presenting a counternarrative that amplifies the resilience of its female protagonist and how the fight for power is treacherous. The novella is a fresh perspective on a woman who defied expectations.

I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, NetGalley and Grove Atlantic.

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Val McDermid takes on the story of Queen MacBeth, starting with history and mixing in her own truth. Full of love and treachery, friendship and betrayal, I found it a fascinating read.
Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for this DRC.
#QueenMacbeth#NetGalley

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An interesting retelling/adaptation of a classic Shakespearean work. The style of the prose was a bit anachronistic for me, as I expected more of a blend of classic writing within the modern text. Nevertheless, the characters were compelling and relatable and the overall plot was engaging and moved at a good pace.

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It is not an easy thing to undertake to re-imagine a narrative about a woman that has been extensively investigated through one of Shakespeare's most famous plays. In Val McDermid's short novella, Queen MacBeth, the re-telling has been achieved with the most lyrical prose and provides a wonderful and captivating insight into the character.

Gruoch (Queen MacBeth) and her lifelong friends Eithne, Aife and LIgath, find themselves four years after the death of King MacBeth hiding in a monastery. Their lives are in danger, as King Malcolm's loyal supporters are drawing close, for even without a husband, Gruoch ability to scheme means she is still a threat.

It is hard to explain how easy it is to be immersed into the words and the storytelling. I felt like I was reading a personal letter or candid memoir as Gruoch reminisces about her life. How while married she meets the red headed warrior and discovers love.

This is quite simply divine, whether you are lover of the source material or not, does not matter. As you find yourself beguiled by Queen MacBeth.

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EXCERPT: The first time I set eyes on Mcbeth, I knew he was the very pattern of manhood. Not simply that he was well-set and even-featured, though that was no mark against him. But although he was a little lower in rank than the man I was wedded to, he seemed more like a lord than Gille Coemgain. My husband was Mormaer of Moray, king of the north in all but name, Macbeth merely his cousin, bound to his side by blood and honour. All I knew of him before we came face to face was that his name meant son of life and that his men called him Deircc, the Red One. I assumed it was because his blade was drenched with blood.
I had not considered that it might refer to his fox-red hair. He looked like a man on fire, his eyes blazing blue as the heart of a lump of ice on a high moor. When his eyes settled on me, I knew he saw beyond Gille Coemgain's wife to the woman I was meant to be. But when my father had made a trade of me to Gille Coemgain, I had no choice. They allowed me to keep my three women with me, but only because they believed them to be powerless. That's a mistake men have made too often around women.

ABOUT 'QUEEN MACBETH': A thousand years ago in an ancient Scottish landscape, a woman is on the run with her three companions – a healer, a weaver and a seer. The men hunting her will kill her – because she is the only one who stands between them and their violent ambition. She is no she is the first queen of Scotland, married to a king called Macbeth.

As the net closes in, we discover a tale of passion, forced marriage, bloody massacre and the harsh realities of medieval Scotland. At the heart of it is one strong, charismatic woman, who survived loss and jeopardy to outwit the endless plotting of a string of ruthless and power-hungry men. Her struggle won her a country. But now it could cost her life.

MY THOUGHTS: I didn't realise, when I picked Queen Macbeth up, that it was a novella. I was expecting something more sweeping, more detailed, more in line with Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall if I am to be honest.

However, Val McDermid's writing is beautiful, and Queen Macbeth filled in a wet and miserable afternoon curled up by the fire.

⭐⭐⭐.5

#QueenMacbeth #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Val McDermid writes full time and divides her time between Cheshire and Edinburgh.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Grove Atlantic via Netgalley for providing a PDF of Queen Mcbeth by Val McDermid for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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Queen Macbeth is a novella-length re-imagining of the story of Shakespeare’s second most famous duo - but based on the known history of the real 11th century Scottish king of that name. Told by his wife in two timelines, Gruoch is no longer a scheming villainess, but instead a brave woman trying to survive after losing the man she loves with her three companions who are not witches but wise women. I did Macbeth at school, but never either “got” or enjoyed Shakespeare until adulthood, and I couldn’t remember much of the plot, not ever having seen it as a play or movie, but a quick refresher (thanks internet) meant I could instantly see how much the plot diverges from that of the play - this is way more Outlander than Elizabethan tragedy.

Four years after King Macbeth was killed at the battle Lumphanan, Gruoch and her lifelong friends Eithne, Aife and Ligath are in hiding at a remote monastery by Loch Leven, but forces loyal to King Malcolm are closing in, and they must flee for their lives. Gruoch reminisces about how she met the handsome redheaded warrior when she was still married to her first husband, and fell hopelessly in love.

While this does use lots of traditional Scots words (there is a glossary at the end - why don’t publishers put them at the beginning - or at least tell you at the beginning that there is one?!) it’s surprisingly easy to read. I had fun with the various nods to Shakespeare that I did recognise - I’m sure those more familiar with the play will recognise more. My main complaint is that this could easily have been a full length novel, but other than this I really liked it.
NB it’s worth looking at Wikipedia for an explanation of why Shakespeare’s version is so different!

Thanks to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for the ARC. I am posting this honest review voluntarily.
Queen Macbeth is published on 24th September.

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I have always loved Shakespeare's "Macbeth", and I was intrigued by a fictional version that was more historically accurate. Queen Macbeth by Val McDermid is a short novel, however it didn't always feel like a quick read. There are moments when the story feels slow, periods of time in which very little happens, and then there are other moments where major action happens in the blink of an eye. I wanted more description in these crucial moments so I could feel as if I was there in the action. Instead, I was just surprised by the change of events and then I moved on.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read that brought new perspective to what I had already known.

I'd like to thank Netgalley for an ARC. In exchange, the above was my honest review.

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This was always going to be five stars. Anything with Queen Macbeth is an honor to read and this one was fantastic. All the female rage in me just bloody ADORED this book

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3.5 ⭐
I enjoyed this retelling of Gruoch and Macbeth. Since it has been many years, I probably could have used a little more information to recall some of the story. The author did give some background, which I found to be very helpful, but as I reader I could have benefited from a little more. I found this to be very well written, the pace and length were perfect, and I liked reading about Gruoch from a more positive perspective. I enjoyed this one!

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I liked this book. I really liked it. I rated it 4 stars because I think this book needed more. I think it lacks something in it. I don't know quite what It is... but neverthless I recommend everyone to read this.

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An alternative telling of the relationship between Gruoch and Macbeth. It’s an interesting concept, but some knowledge of the era and its clans is recommended, though the author does give a brief overview in her note at the beginning of the book.

I liked it and as always with McDermid the writing was first class.

Short and to the point, a story to ponder on.

Thanks for the Glossary, it was definitely useful!

Thank you NetGalley and Grove Atlantic.

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Wow Val what a great novel. Historical novel with strong female characters. Great world building it felt like you were there in the scenario with the characters. I really enjoyed this book, looking forward to others by this author. Thank you to #netgalley and the publisher for an ARC.

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As far as retellings, or based on stories, this one isn't bad? But in a way it relies too much on a knowledge of Macbeth rather than letting the story also live on it's own. The pacing was either very fast or very slow.

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Well written but I feel like there’s something I’m missing. I’m not that familiar with Macbeth so for me the story never gets starts and it doesn’t really give me any answers. I prefer the first half and then the ending feels a little rushed. I assume some more familiarities with the Scottish play might make this better. For me the story never gets off its feet.

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