A harried fugitive, guilt-ridden, excommunicated, Robert the Bruce, King of Scots in name and nothing more, faced a future that all but he - and perhaps Elizabeth de Burgh, his wife - accepted as devoid of hope; his kingdom occupied by a powerful and ruthless iinvader; his army defeated; a large proportion of his supporters dead or prisoners; much of his people against him; and the rest so cowed and war-sick as no longer to care.
Only a man of transcendent courage would have continued the struggle, or seen it as worth continuing. But Bruce, whatever his many failings, was courageous above all, with a driving love of freedom that gave him no rest. He was not a patriot as Wallace had been a patriot - that was a new conception in mediaeval Scotland - but he had a great love for his own oppressed people and a recognition of their rights, as well as his own.
Hounded from his land, he sought refuge in the Hebrides, then a semi-independent principality. Half-Celtic hiimself, he found his roots and renewal of strength, spiritual and military, amongst that strange, outlandish remnant of his people. From the Highlands and the Isles he launched himself back against the overwhelming might of his enemies, in as forlorn a hope as any history has to record.
In the process he lost everything but his life - wife, daughter, brothers, sisters, friends, health. But never his resolution and a kind of faith. For one day, he vowed to himself, he would compound for his sins and excommunication by leading a Crusade to drive the Infidel from the holy places. To do this he must first win his kingdom, whatever the odds.
In this the second of Nigel Tranter's powerful trilogy of novels, Robert the Bruce blazes the path of the hero king, in blood and violence and determination, in cunning and ruthlessness, yet strangely, a preoccupation with mercy and chivalry, all the way from the ill-starred open-boat landing on the Ayrshire coast by night, from a spider-hung Galloway cave and near despair, to Bannockburn itself, where he faced the hundred-thousand-strong mightiest army in the world, and won.