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The First Blast of the Trumpet (The Knox Trilogy #1)

4.4  ·  Rating Details ·  53 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Hailes Castle, 1511. Midnight on a doom-laden Hallowe'en and Elisabeth Hepburn, feisty daughter of the Earl of Bothwell, makes a wish ― to wed her lover, the poet David Lindsay. But her uncle has other plans. To safeguard the interests of the Hepbum family she is to become a nun and succeed her aunt as Prioress of St. Mary's Abbey, Haddington.

However, plunged into the poli
Hardcover, 382 pages
Published September 6th 2012 by Knox Robinson Publishing (first published September 5th 2012)
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Michael Schmicker
Jul 31, 2014 Michael Schmicker rated it really liked it
Hallowe’en night. 500 years ago.

Superstitions rule sixteenth-century Scotland, and Macpherson opens her sumptuously-detailed novel with a sly nod to the spirit of Macbeth (though the Bard won’t be born for another half century). Elizabeth Hepburn and her two teenage sisters are tossing nuts into a blazing fire, as their witch-cum-nursemaid Betsy divines their futures by the way they sputter and pop. Then, well-primed for ghosts and ghouls, the feardie trio slip out into the dark night clutching
Julie Baldwin
Jan 28, 2014 Julie Baldwin rated it it was amazing
The amount of work that must have gone into getting this historically correct is quite staggering. It is quite simply one of the best books of this genre I've ever read and would wholeheartedly recommend it.
Mar 05, 2013 Sheila rated it it was amazing

A wonderful voice characterizes this book, with a natural conversational tone and a beautifully comprehensible and convincing Scottish dialect. The words practically speak themselves in the reader’s mind, much to this reader’s delight, and I kept finding myself wondering how I was enjoying such foreign cadences without any fear of misunderstanding them. Long after I’ve forgotten the story I’ll remember reading and enjoying this book—and I don’t expect I’ll forget the story quickly either, as it’
Judy & Marianne from Long and Short Reviews
Originally posted at:


Sometimes I open a book, read the first couple of lines and congratulate myself on picking a really, really good read. Then I giggle to myself, lock the bedroom door and dive in. That was my experience with Marie Macpherson’s The First Blast of the Trumpet, because…as the first line states, “There’s no rhyme nor reason to it. Your destiny is already laid doon.” At least mine was by opening the book.

I connected with t
Linda Root
Mar 16, 2014 Linda Root rated it it was amazing
The prevailing view of John Knox is of a towering, bearded and overbearing personification of the term ‘Fire and Brimstone’ -- an image that both his disciples and his critics sought to create. In The First Blast of the Trumpet, author Marie MacPherson treats us to a different view. What makes her offering unique is that she does it in a way that is both witty and entertaining. For those who think that a story centered on Knox will of necessity lack romance, intrigue, tongue-in-cheek wit and ...more
Jo Barton
Sep 09, 2013 Jo Barton rated it it was amazing
It’s often said that truth is stranger than fiction, and in this fictionalised account of the early life of the Scottish religious reformer John Knox, supposed truths are revealed and opened up to scrutiny. The story begins in 1511 at Hailes Castle in Scotland, where on the night of Hallowe'en, three girls contemplate their future, and even as they hurl their tokens into the crackling flames of the fire, there is a sense that fortune favours the brave, and there is none more destined to be ...more
C.P. Lesley
There’s nothing quite like sitting down to write a novel about a man who, to quote Marie Macpherson, is blamed for “banning Christmas, football on Sundays,” and the like. What is one to do with such a subject, never mind making him interesting and sympathetic? Yet this is exactly what The First Blast of the Trumpet (Knox Robinson Publishing, 2012) does for John Knox—best known as the dour misogynist who spearheaded the Scottish Reformation.

Macpherson approaches Knox sideways through the characte
Marie Macpherson
Aug 24, 2013 Marie Macpherson added it  ·  (Review from the author)
This review is by Tom Murray
Creative Writer in Residence for Tyne & Esk Writers:

On reading Marie Macpherson's excellent novel two words sprang to mind-- page turner. I was gripped from the first page by this fast moving, endlessly fascinating story set in 16th Century Scotland, one of the most interesting periods in Scottish History. The reason for this was that the story was told by placing the characters at the centre of their own stories, by delving deep into their lives, loves and losse
Debra Martin
Jan 23, 2016 Debra Martin rated it really liked it
THE FIRST BLAST OF THE TRUMPET is an energetic mix of Scottish history and an intriguing story of a young girl's life gone awry. Elisabeth Hepburn, the daughter of the Earl of Bothwell, falls in love with the poet David Lindsay and imagines a life of love and family, but she soon finds her dream shattered when she is forced into a life as a nun at St. Mary's Abbey. She's a pawn in a man's world.

If you thought a life as a nun was one of peaceful contemplation, you'd be wrong. There is nothing pea
Lexie Conyngham
Dec 11, 2015 Lexie Conyngham rated it it was amazing
Historically convincing, full of action and excitement. This book hypothesises in fictional form about the background and birth of John Knox, weaving historical figures with fictional ones to create a dramatic narrative against a background of Scotland in political and religious turmoil.
Feb 24, 2013 Alison rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge-2013
very good.....can't wait to read the next one
Glen Craney
Jul 20, 2016 Glen Craney rated it it was amazing
Invoke the warriors and battles of Scotland past, and most will toast the memories of Wallace and Bruce and Stirling Bridge, Bannockburn, and Culloden. Yet there was another centuries-old war fought across that contentious land, one just as fierce and bloody. Its battlefields were the nation's pulpits and confessionals, and its combatants wore vestments.

Marie Macpherson takes her title for this, her first volume in a trilogy about the turbulent times of John Knox, from the theologian's famous p
Margaret Skea
Jul 28, 2013 Margaret Skea rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those who enjoy Scottish historical fiction and can cope with significant amounts of dialect.
There is lots to commend in this book - the sense of place and period, the pace and the flow of the writing. I was interested to see how much dialect was used and while this wasn't a problem for me I suspect it might make it a less than easy read for readers unfamiliar with lowland Scots vocabulary.

I think I should also say that despite the title this isn't really a book primarily about John Knox, but rather about Elizabeth Hepburn, reluctant Prioress of a nunnery and her fictional relationship
Apr 15, 2015 Susan rated it it was amazing
If you enjoy well-written and well-researched historical fiction, "The First Blast of the Trumpet" is an excellent choice. If you also love Scottish history or the history of the reformation, then this book is a must read.

While Elisabeth Hepburn longs for marriage and a family and her sister Meg dreams of a life of contemplation, they both find themselves forced into lives they didn't want. Daughters of the Earl of Bothwell, their attempts to control their own destinies make for complicated liv
Hilda Reilly
Jun 19, 2014 Hilda Reilly rated it it was amazing
Marie Macpherson has brought to life events of a place and a time which probably few other than historians know much about. And yet they are events, and particularly people, who have had a profound effect on the religious and cultural life not only of the Scots but worldwide. It is interesting to compare the religious fanaticism of the 16th century with what is going on today in the Middle East. This is the beauty of this kind of historical fiction. It gives us an insight into the minds of ...more
Anna Belfrage
Sep 06, 2013 Anna Belfrage rated it really liked it
Starting off in 1511, a couple of years before the fateful year of the battle of Flodden, Ms Macpherson gives us a vivid description of the first half of the 16th century in Scotland – a time of much upheaval. The old religious order is being challenged, heretics such as Hamilton and Wishart are condemned to burn, and in the wings a young John Knox grows into manhood and convictions.

Ms Macpherson is obviously very well acquainted with the historical background to her book. Facts are reeled off a
Stephen Bishop
May 07, 2015 Stephen Bishop rated it it was amazing

“The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women” is the famous polemic published in 1558 by the man whose name adorns countless Presbyterian churches, John Knox. The mere title of the book grates on those with a dislike of anti-feminist rhetoric, although Knox’s chief target was one particular woman, Mary Queen of Scots. And her failing was not simply to be a woman ruling over men, but a Roman Catholic woman ruling over men.

Still, I carried that lurking prejudice against
Mar 06, 2013 Patty rated it really liked it
The First Blast of the Trumpet takes on the life of John Knox, the Protestant reformer from Scotland (it is book one of a trilogy). The author's note clearly indicates that very little is known of Knox's early life and that this book is very much a depiction of the author's "what could have beens."

Each chapter opens with a quote from either the Bible or David Lindsay's writings or some other relevant source. The quote gives a hint of what is to come in the writings below. This first book starts
Stuart Laing
Dec 28, 2013 Stuart Laing rated it it was amazing
Set in the turbulent midst of 16th C. Scotland the books takes you deep inside the daily lives and loves of three young women who as childhood friends and rivals will face wildly different fates as they grow older. From unwanted marriage, to being mistress to the king or being chosen to be Prioress of an abbey, their struggles and triumphs are recorded in a growing tapestry of emotion and colour conveyed through a masterful use of Scots and English language which perfectly captures the ...more
Richard Devlin
Let me begin by saying that I can’t think of a novel that evokes the feeling of an historical era more richly and convincingly than The First Blast of the Trumpet, Marie Macpherson’s debut novel of sixteenth-century Scotland. Treating us to a colorful sampling of the Scottish language of the time, the book creates a world in which love, hate, passion, and ambition take place in the a vivid everyday world of bawdiness, vulgarity, and superstition.

From its first scene on a harrowing Halloween nigh
Maureen Timerman
Feb 27, 2013 Maureen Timerman rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
We begin this story when their are three young girls...Elizabeth, Meg, and Kate. As they bloom into young woman and take their paths. Meg is chosen to marry, and we feel sorry for her. Kate is taken off to the Kings Court, and Elizabeth...she becomes a Nun and later the Prioress of St. Mary’s Abbey. She is hopelessly in love with David Lindsey, he goes off to war and she takes her vows...but there is a secret!
We travel with her as she is let to where a baby is about to be born. Elizabeth then an
Apr 05, 2014 Anna rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-library
I have read the book twice! Both times I was enthralled by the richness of history, fast-pace of the storytelling and the variety of characters involved in the events. We were all introduced to the British history (i.e. Henry VIII) from the English perspective. To have the same events presented from a different - Scottish - perspective is a paradigm shift. For a history/book lover, this book is a treasure! Characters come alive from the pages - I wanted to shake Davie Lindsay so many times for ...more
Marsha Lambert
Feb 05, 2015 Marsha Lambert rated it it was amazing
I just finished The First Blast of the Trumpet late last night. While this book is set in a time period of the Scottish reformation that I was not very familiar with, I greatly enjoyed this book. Marie Macpherson writes a tale with well rounded characters, solid research, and being Scottish, a flair for the Scots people.

Detailing the beginning of the reformation from differing points of view while highlighting John Knox's journey from birth to becoming a key spokesman for the reformation this bo
Chris Waugh
May 16, 2013 Chris Waugh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As someone who has little knowledge of Scottish history, I was slightly worried that I would not connect with some of the facts touched upon in this novel - I needn't have worried. The author's obvious knowledge of and passion for the subject matter sweeps the reader along as various historical threads are woven into a rich tapestry of a story. The brevity of the chapters help move the narrative along at a cracking pace. The family trees included at the beginning of the novel are a useful ...more
Oct 07, 2015 Jo rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Scotland, 1513. For many people, especially those of the court of James IV, life was about to change forever. As soldiers began massing in the Borders, ready to depart for the ill-fated Field of Flodden, a young woman by the name of Elisabeth Hepburn was fighting for the heart of the man she loved, before it was all too late.

With the skill of a born writer and the detailed knowledge of a historian, Marie Macpherson weaves together fact, fiction and magic to conjure a story that draws you in on
Jan Abraham
May 25, 2013 Jan Abraham rated it really liked it
Marie Macpherson knows her stuff, and can write a great novel. Scrupulously researched she delves into the difficult subject of the reformation in Scotland, and it's pivotal mover the enigmatic John Knox. I am not new to this time in Scotland, but very new to Knox, who is a difficult man to like. This was a hard read for me, but I am a slow reader and had many interruptions.In the end, it was very rewarding, and I look for ward to Marie's next offering.Beautiful narrative, and compelling ...more
May 10, 2016 Bobby rated it really liked it
I was initially confused by the Scottish phrases that begin literally on the first page but before long I was reading and enjoying the "New" language I had been exposed to. And then there is the wonderfully researched story that Ms. MacPherson has told. The history of John Knox and the chaotic time period in which he lived is brought to life. Most of the characters are real life people and Scotland's history is accurate and factual. So glad I didn't give up on this one.
Jane Walker
Apr 18, 2013 Jane Walker rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I was disappointed to find that this was the first book in a trilogy. I liked it, but I'm not sure I want to read the rest. I appreciate that the dialogue had to be in Scots to be authentic, but I could have wished that the author hadn't used it in the narrative as well. The cast of characters is confusing, but that's history.
Cynthia Ripley Miller
Sep 07, 2014 Cynthia Ripley Miller rated it it was amazing
Great writing and story! I also got a solid sense of the history. The reformers were convicted and bold. The court intrigue seemed so intense (poor Jinty) and the James' just didn't fare well. I also enjoyed the authenticity of the Scots Gaelic running through the novel. A worthy read.
The Idle Woman
Summary review coming very soon, but for now please see the full post on my blog:
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Marie Macpherson - Scottish Reformation 10 13 Sep 09, 2013 05:48AM  
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Marie Gilroy Macpherson was born in the Honest Toun of Musselburgh, six miles from Edinburgh. She spent a year in Moscow and Leningrad researching her PhD thesis on the 19th century Russian writer, Lermontov, said to be descended from the Scottish poet and seer, Thomas the Rhymer.
The rich history of East Lothian - especially the Reformation period - provides the inspiration for her fiction.
More about Marie Macpherson...

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