#GuestPost from Alys West ~ Five Books To Transport You To Scotland #LockdownReads @alyswestyork #FridayReads

Today I’m delighted to welcome Alys West, author of Beltane (Urban Fantasy) and The Dirigible King’s Daughter (Steampunk) My reviews can be found here and here.

Alys’s latest novel, Storm Witch, is set in the beautiful islands of Orkney.  It’s contemporary fantasy with lots of magic, mystery, romance and stone circles. Storm Witch will be published on Friday 17th April and is available to purchase/pre-order on Amazon

Over to you, Alys…

As lockdown continues, I find myself making lists of things I want to do when life returns to normal. Top of that list is a trip to Scotland. I’ve been in love with all things Scottish for years and ideally like to spend my holidays on a Scottish island.  I even set my latest book, Storm Witch, in Orkney to give me an excuse to go back there as much as possible.  As I can’t travel at the moment I’ve been re-reading some of my favourite books which are set in Scotland which are allowing me to revisit (in my mind at least) some of the gorgeous scenery which makes Scotland so special. 

These are my top five books set in Scotland. I’d love to hear about yours. If you’ve a favourite that you think I should have included in the list then please add a comment below or send me a tweet (@alyswestyork).

1. Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart

Set on the beautiful island of Skye this is a great yarn of murder, mystery and magic.  The plot concerns a series of ritual murders which take place in a remote corner of Skye. It’s got the classic murder mystery plot device of a secluded hotel where all of the suspects are staying and, as the weather changes and no one can get in or out, the tension really ramps up. 

I read Wildfire at Midnight for the first time as a teenager and I’ve returned to it many times since then as you can see because the pages are literally falling out of my copy.  This book was my introduction to the Celtic festival of Beltane on 1st May which years inspired my first novel also called Beltane.

2. Red Bones by Ann Cleeves

This was the first of Ann Cleeves’ Shetland books that I read and I still think it’s the best. It’s eerie and atmospheric in a way that the later books don’t quite achieve for me. I do have a soft spot for detective Jimmy Perez (even more so in the TV series when he’s played by the wonderful Douglas Henshall) and I love his quiet but determined approach to investigation. But the real star is the landscape and, although I’ve yet to make it to Shetland in real life, I feel like I know it from these books.

3. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

No one writes historical fiction like Dorothy Dunnett. The Game of Kings is the start of her breathtaking series The Lymond Chronicles set in mid-16th century.  The book introduces the hero, Francis Crawford of Lymond who’s soldier, scholar, musician and outlaw. The book follows Lymond’s return to Scotland after years of exile as he tries to prove his innocence and restore his name.  It’s a book which defies categorization as its mystery, adventure, drama and high romance.

It’s fair to say it’s a completely bewildering book for about the first three quarters and as a reader you have to hang on in there and trust it’ll all make sense in the end.  You also have to not be bothered about Lymond’s ability to drop quotes in about six different languages into any conversation.  You can look them up but I’d say don’t worry about it on a first read, just hold on and enjoy the ride because it is absolutely worth it.

4. Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine

Set in the Hebrides this is a book about the stories we tell and how folklore shapes a place and the people who live there. It’s told in three different time periods with echoes of the legend cascading through time.  There’s also a mystery plot with a body uncovered in an archaeological dig which clearly hasn’t been there for centuries and a spot of romance as well.

Sarah Maine lives in York as I do and has a similar love for Scotland. She writes beautiful descriptions of the Hebrides and while I’m reading I feel like I’m walking on one of the white sand beaches, seeing those incomparable views across the islands as the sea sparkles in the rare Scottish sunshine.

5. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I’m not usually a fan of time-slip but I love this one.  It’s one of those books that it’s hard to describe as it does so much.  It’s romance, time-travel, adventure and high drama.  Outlander is epic in all senses of the word and the kind of book you get lost in for days at a time.  I now know that Diana Gabaldon hadn’t been to Scotland when she wrote it and all I can say it that her research skills must be exceptional because she does a wonderful job of evoking the landscape of the Highlands. 

Of course, Jamie Fraser is a big attraction as well but one of Diana Gabaldon’s real strengths is making all of her characters, even the minor ones, really memorable and I’m particularly fond of taciturn Murtagh. As a big fan of stone circles, I love the importance of Craig na Dun and its crucial role in the story.

Great choices and beautiful photos, Alys. Thank you.

About Alys West

Alys West writes contemporary fantasy and steampunk. She lives in York but loves to travel especially to Scottish islands. Her stories grow out of places and the tales which people tell about places.  Her work draws on her own experience of surviving trauma but always with the possibility of a hopeful ending. Alys has a MA in Creative Writing from York St John University and teaches creative writing at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York. She’s also a book whisperer (like a book doctor but more holistic) and mentor to aspiring writers. When she’s not writing you can find her at folk gigs, doing yoga and attempting to crochet.  She occasionally blogs at http://www.alyswest.com, intermittently tweets at @alyswestyork and spends rather too much time on Facebook where you can find her at Alys West Writer.  She is also on Instagram at @alyswestwriter.  To keep up with Alys’s news you can join her Facebook readers’ group ‘Druids, Spellworkers and Dirigibles’

10 thoughts on “#GuestPost from Alys West ~ Five Books To Transport You To Scotland #LockdownReads @alyswestyork #FridayReads

  1. The Game of Kings is on my TBR so I’ll go into well warned about the languages, and remember it’s worth the struggle if I haven’t a clue what’s going on at first (my usual state of mind, anyway, so I should be used to it by now… 😉 )

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oooooh, Scotland! My heart’s dream trip! (If I live long enough, I just might get there!) Am checking out all of Alys West’s books, and her favorites, too. (Read Outlander when it came out, many years ago, but it wouldn’t hurt to read it one more time! 🙂 ) Thanks for a great post today, Alys and Cathy! Loved it!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Me, too, Cathy. For now, I’ll have to enjoy Scotland vicariously through trips made by online friends like you! Have a great time when you go, and take lots of pics!! 😀 ❤


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