Despite having the most ancient line of Kings in all Christendom, as the Scots are ever proud to tell you, these were the Monarchs of a nation called Alba, or by the Romans, Caledonia. There were smaller monarchies of Dalriada, Strathclyde and Galloway on the fringes, as it were; but Alba was much the greatest. There was no such place as Scotland, however - not until Kenneth mac Alpin made it and named it.
How Kenneth, Norse-slayer and nation builder, achieved this, in the ninth century; how he had any even greater vision, the unity of all of the Celtic peoples, Irish, Welsh, Cornish and Manx as well, in the face of the Anglo-Saxon and Norse invaders; how his Scotland came by its patron saint, the Apostle Andrew; how Norse Dragon ships were lured into the notorious Corryvreckan whirlpool: and much else, makes up the story of Kenneth who founded a realm whose people have probably made a greater impact on the world than any other nation of comparable size.
But the awkward, obstinate and enduring Scots are a race of leaders, who can seldom unite sufficiently to govern themselves. Kenneth discovered that, and it continues today. However he did have the Stone of Destiny behind him, that fabled and elusive symbol of authority, which perhaps helped - or so his beloved Eithne assured him.
This is Nigel Tranter at his imaginative best, ranging across the Scotland he loves, picking out the threads of emerging nationhood through a dark and violent world and presenting a nation to itself.