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The First Blast of the Trumpet

(The Knox Trilogy #1)

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  76 ratings  ·  42 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
May 30, 2014 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
T S Harvey
Jan 28, 2014 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. ...more
Kelly Lacey
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
With 'The First Blast of the Trumpet' Marie Macpherson leads us on a rollicking romp through Scottish history. The book is set in Edinburgh and the Lothians (with short excursions to France and England) between the years 1511 and 1548; a very tumultuous time for Scotland. The book is a giddy roller coaster ride with murder and mayhem, treachery and torture, infanticide and regicide galore. The descriptive passages are extremely well written; you can smell sweet new mown hay, imagine the blood of ...more
Mar 05, 2013 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 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 rib ...more
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was eager to read this book, the Reformation one of my favorite eras of history and having written about Mary I of England myself. This novel promised to offer another point of view by featuring reformer, John Knox. For those who enjoy Scottish historical fiction set in the 16th century, this is a must-read.

The first thing that struck me, and I imagine most readers, is the heavy use of Scottish vernacular. For the most part, it is easy enough to determine what is intended and it adds to the au
Sep 07, 2013 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 darin ...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
Oct 14, 2012 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 losses. A
Debra Martin
Feb 11, 2013 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
Jun 28, 2014 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 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge-2013
very good.....can't wait to read the next one
Steven Veerapen
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A haunting and evocative glimpse into sixteenth-century Scotland, The First Blast of the Trumpet opens as the shoots of reform are still being planted.

Torn from her own dreams, Elizabeth Hepburn is forced into a corrupt church, and must watch as her godson, John Knox, becomes enamoured of the new craze sweeping Europe: religious reformation.

Marie MacPherson is to be congratulated on painting a lush, vibrant world, inhabited by colourful characters. The language is rich, the landscape sensory, an
Helen Hollick
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book has received a Discovering Diamonds Review
Helen Hollick
founder #DDRevs
"A good, solid, old-fashioned historical novel. By which I mean that the settings, the characterisation, and the interaction between characters are all wonderfully and skillfully depicted."
Elena Douglas
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I just read First Blast of the Trumpet, and it was a hell of a ride, a magnificent saga peopled with complex and (mostly) sympathetic individuals. I did love the main characters. I also loved the dialect. Not knowing the meaning of every word did not detract from the story. In fact it enhanced the voice, and I always got the meaning and sense of it. I won't say, though, that this was an easy read. Times were tough back then, and sometimes I had to take a break, especially when there was a burnin ...more
Glen Craney
Sep 11, 2014 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
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
Susan O
Apr 08, 2015 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
Marsha Lambert
Feb 05, 2015 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
Hilda Reilly
Mar 18, 2013 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 chara ...more
Paul Bennett
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I attended Knox Presbyterian Church in Detroit, MI when I was a young; indeed it was the church in which I was married, so, reading about the life of John Knox seemed like an interesting thing to do. What I found, in The First Blast of the Trumpet, was far more than just a historical fiction biography. Scotland in the mid-16th century was filled with religious and political turmoil. It was an era of burgeoning church reform; building on the Lutheran reformation in Germany. It was also a time whe ...more
Ethyl Smith
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
‘The First Blast Of The Trumpet’ is a good read; a well- written and in-depth story which successfully blends real history with fiction to give an intriguing picture of John Knox’s early life.
The Reformation looms ever closer and we learn of this difficult road through characters who speak, behave, and live their lives in a convincing way. This is achieved by using extensive research with a light, deft touch.
The main characters struggle with their flaws around the central theme of ‘Keep Tryst’
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This novel was an engrossing read, set in time period that I only vaguely know about. Many of the characters are names I've read about in historical non-fiction so it was interesting how the author wove these people into the narrative of the novel. I read the poetry and other writing of David Lindsay many years ago but it's all too easy to do that without knowing any personal details.
I particularly enjoyed the dialect used throughout the novel, the author surprising me with a few words and phra
N.A. Granger
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Four and a half stars!
The book is the first of a trilogy about John Knox, a Scottish minister, theologian, and writer who was a leader of the Reformation and the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, marking the 500th anniversary of his birth. In this first book, Knox plays a minor role to the two main characters: Elizabeth Hepburn, a feisty woman who becomes the Prioress of a convent, and David Lindsey, her one-time lover, who is the long-time tutor and confidant of King James V of Sc
Anna Belfrage
Sep 06, 2013 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 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
Feb 25, 2013 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 09, 2013 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 atmospher ...more
Margaret Skea
Feb 11, 2013 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
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Marie Macpherson - Scottish Reformation 10 13 Sep 09, 2013 05:48AM  

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Marie Gilroy Macpherson writes historical fiction set in the 16th century during the turbulent period of the Scottish Reformation. The Knox Trilogy is a fictional account of the life of the fiery Reformer.
Her passion for historical fiction has been fired up by writers such as Walter Scott and the great Russian novelists. To research her PhD thesis on the 19th century Russian writer, Lermontov, she

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