Book Review: Lady Macbethad

Power. History. Love. Hate. Vengeance. She will be Queen. Whatever it takes…

Isabelle Schuler ~ Lady Macbethad


Daughter of an ousted king, descendant of ancient druids, as a child it is prophesied that one day Gruoch will be queen of Alba.

When she is betrothed to Duncan, heir elect, this appears to confirm the prophecy. She leaves behind her home, her family and her close friend MacBethad, and travels to the royal seat at Scone to embrace her new position.

But nothing is as Gruoch anticipates. Duncan’s court is filled with sly words and unfriendly faces, women desperate to usurp her position, and others whose motives are shrouded in mystery. As her coronation approaches, a deadly turn of events forces Gruoch to flee Duncan and the capital, finding herself alone, vulnerable and at the mercy of an old enemy. Her hope of becoming Queen all but lost, Gruoch does what she must to survive, vowing that one day she will fulfil her destiny and take up the future owed to her. Whatever it may take.


I love Shakespeare. However, I do believe that most people never experience it properly, which is on stage, not in a classroom from a book. One thing we did at school was imagine the past lives of his characters and I loved writing about Viola from Twelfth Night, whilst wondering about the inspiration for his characters… but I digress.

In Lady MacBethad Isabelle Schuler introduces us to Gruoch, daughter of the rightful King of Scotland, before she becomes Lady MacBeth – one of my favourite characters. Now, I would recommend you try not to think too much about our conflicted, guilt-ridden (anti) heroine whilst reading this. That way you’ll see Gruoch for who she is: a feisty, determined young woman with high expectations!

This is not a simple story that takes us from childhood to marriage with MacBeth; in fact Gruoch has many betrothals, hardships and even the odd murder to keep us captivated by the tale Schuler spins. There are familiar characters and it’s interesting to learn about Duncan as a young man, and to see Gruoch prepared to marry him to ensure her position as Queen.

Other characters like Donalda really add to the sense of uncertainty in Gruoch’s life, whilst MacBethad comes across as very well-rounded and sensible. It’s not impossible to imagine him collaborating with his wife to murder later on in life, but not as obvious as you might think, as Gruoch’s scheming seems to come more from a place of expectation than ambition.

Schuler’s writing is extremely vivid and the landscape of Scotland is breath-taking – a character in its own right. This is a slow burn, but there’s enough action to keep readers engrossed and it’s a great piece of historical fiction.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Thanks to Bloomsbury Raven for my proof copy. Opinions my own.

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