Mary Queen of Scots, widow of the youthful French king, returns from her long exile in France to a country bereft of pageantry. A young messenger, Robert, gallops through the deserted streets of Edinburgh announcing her contentious return. When Robert’s horse is offered as royal transport to the palace, the flame-haired Mary rejects the side saddle, saying, ‘In France a queen rides astride.’ This moment telegraphs the pre-occupations of Jesse Blackadder’s second novel, The Raven’s Heart, in which history, invention, gender, sexuality, power, expectation, and reality collide.
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