Gruadh / Rue / Lady Macbeth
The protagonist and narrator of the novel, daughter of Bodhe and Ailsa, wife of Macbeth and Gilcomgan, mother of Lulach and Farquhar mac Macbeth. Gruadh is headstrong and loyal. She loves her… read analysis of Gruadh / Rue / Lady Macbeth
Macbeth, also Mac Bethad mac Finlach, is the son of Finlach and the second husband of Gruadh. Born in Moray, his life is disrupted when Gilcomgan and Gilcomgan’s brother murder his father and… read analysis of Macbeth
Father to Gruadh and Farquhar, mormaer of Fife, and husband of Dolina and Ailsa, who dies during childbirth. Bodhe is a respected and powerful warrior. He believes in certain traditions, such as… read analysis of Bodhe
Gruadh’s first husband, the father of her son, Lulach, and mormaer of Moray. Gilcomgan gains his position through murder—he killed his uncle, Finlach, father of Macbeth and former mormaer of Moray… read analysis of Gilcomgan
Gruadh’s son with her first husband, Gilcomgan. Lulach never meets his father, who is killed by Macbeth, his stepfather, months before his birth. Lulach is always interested in war and fighting, and… read analysis of Lulach
Catriona of Kinlossie
A healer and widow who is also Macbeth’s childhood friend and mistress. Catriona helps Gruadh give birth to her son, Lulach, and then becomes her friend and confidant. However, when Gruadh discovers Macbeth… read analysis of Catriona of Kinlossie
Gruadh’s mother, and Bodhe’s first wife. She practices ancient Celtic traditions, such as tattooing Gruadh with the triskele as a baby, and divination. Like her daughter, Ailsa possesses Da Shealladh, or second… read analysis of Ailsa
Duncan mac Crinan
Son of Crinan, grandson of King Malcolm, husband of Lady Sybilla, and father to Malcolm mac Duncan and Donald Bán. Duncan becomes king after the death of his grandfather. He is… read analysis of Duncan mac Crinan
Malcolm mac Duncan
The son of Duncan, grandson of Crinan, and great-grandson of King Malcolm. After Macbeth kills Duncan he banishes young Malcolm and his brother, Donald Bán. Although Macbeth’s allies want him to… read analysis of Malcolm mac Duncan
The jarl of Caithness and the Orkeny Islands, and grandson of Mother Enya. Thorfin has an enchanted raven banner and is able to use magic himself. Gruadh sees him use it to stop… read analysis of Thorfin Sigurdsson
The long-reigning Scottish king in power at the beginning of the novel. His son is Crinan and his grandson is Duncan, who is next in line to the throne. Although Scottish succession typically follows… read analysis of King Malcolm
King Malcolm’s son, and father of Duncan. Crinan is never king himself, but he does his best to protect his family and his legacy, sending his warriors out on missions to kidnap, intimidate… read analysis of Crinan
Duncan’s wife, mother of Malcolm mac Duncan and Donald Bán. Although their husbands become enemies, Lady Sybilla and Gruadh are close friends. Lady Sybilla asks Gruadh to promise to care for her children… read analysis of Lady Sybilla
Gruadh’s childhood friend, and a monk. During their adolescence and early twenties, he moves away to train at a monastery, but is invited to live with Gruadh and Macbeth as their royal cleric after… read analysis of Drostan
One of Gruadh’s cousins. A healing woman who comes to live with Gruadh after the birth of her son, Lulach. Bethoc is one of Gruadh’s oldest and most trusted friends, and is with… read analysis of Bethoc
Gruadh’s nursemaid. The two women remain close through much of Gruadh’s life. Maeve, however, often gives unhelpful advice when Gruadh is trying to conceive, as she believes that Gruadh’s interest in more traditionally… read analysis of Maeve
A Viking, and nephew of Thorfin. Gruadh first meets him after Thorfin kidnaps her, when Ketill stands guard to protect her from assault. Although one of her captors, Gruadh has a soft spot in… read analysis of Ketill Bruisson
Sometimes referred to as Mother Enya, Enya is an Irish princess and Thorfin Sigurdsson’s grandmother. In her old age she lives alone in northern Moray, where Gruadh is able to visit her and… read analysis of Enya
Bodhe’s wife and mistress, who he marries after the death of his first wife, Ailsa. Dolina is a fairly traditional woman, who manages the household and complies with her husband’s requests, and therefore… read analysis of Dolina
A priest at Abernethy. Although he and Bodhe get along, he and Gruadh do not. Father Anselm is a conservative Catholic priest, and doesn’t believe women need an extensive education, even as he is… read analysis of Father Anselm
The young son of Duncan and Lady Sybilla, and brother to Malcolm mac Duncan. Donald Bán is orphaned as a child after his mother dies in childbirth and his father is slain by… read analysis of Donald Bán
Macbeth’s father, who is murdered by Gilcomgan and Gilcomgan’s brother when Macbeth is just a child. Although Finlach never appears in the novel, he is said to be an impressive warrior and warlord, who taught his son how to fight and rule early on.
Malcolm mac Farquhar
Farquhar’s young orphaned son, Gruadh’s nephew, and Bodhe’s grandson. He is killed by agents of King Malcolm in the same ambush that kills Bodhe and Fergus.
Gruadh’s maidservant and one of her childhood friends. Aella is Saxon by birth, but was raised in Scotland.
One of Gruadh’s cousins, and mother of Bethoc. She is a healing woman who has some knowledge of divination, and helps Gruadh untangle some of her earliest visions.
Lulach’s wife, and the daughter of Thorfin Sigurdsson. A gentle and pious woman.
His full name is Malsnechtan. The son of Ingebjorg and Lulach, and grandson of Gruadh.
Farquhar mac Bodhe
Gruadh’s older brother, and the son of Bodhe. He is murdered by warriors representing Crinan when Gruadh is a child. He has one son, Malcolm mac Farquhar, who is murdered a decade later.
Farquhar mac Macbeth
One of Gruadh’s two sons with Macbeth. He dies at only two years old. In Gaelic his name is Ferchar, meaning “very dear one.”
Fergus mac Donal
One of Bodhe’s warriors. Father of Ruari, Angus, and others. He is one of the first men tasked with training Gruadh how to fight. He dies with Bodhe when King Malcolm’s agents ambush them.
Finn mac Nevin
Bodhe’s foster son. A blacksmith. As teens, he and Gruadh carry on a brief but intense affair, which he cuts off. Later in life, they become close friends, and he even secretly forges her armor.
Son of Fergus. He serves as a warrior for Bodhe, and then for Macbeth.
Angus mac Fergus
Son of Fergus. He serves as a warrior for Bodhe, and then for Macbeth.
Constantine mac Artair (also Banchorrie)
Macbeth’s uncle and the thane of Banchorrie. He becomes close to Gruadh when he sends her a messenger alerting her to her husband Gilcomgan’s death, before Macbeth arrives at Elgin to forcibly wed her. Constantine is a lifelong ally of the couple, often providing advice and support.
Dermot mac Conall
Macbeth’s household bard. Dermot is also an astrologer, and is able to tell the future based on maps he makes of the stars. He tells Lulach’s future for Gruadh and Macbeth after the young boy’s birth.
Bodhe’s personal bard.
The Viking who attempts to rape Gruadh during her time as Thorfin Sigurdsson’s captive. Thorfin kills him as punishment, and as a peace offering to Gruadh.
Scathach of Skye
A warrior woman from Gaelic legend, who was said to have defended the Isle of Skye against invaders. She is often invoked by Gruadh, who uses her as a historical precedent to justify learning how to use a sword herself.
The Goddess Brigid
The Gaelic goddess of healing, childbirth, and poetry.
Gruadh’s little sister, and Bodhe and Ailsa’s daughter. Both Brigid and Ailsa die soon after her birth.
Also known by his formal name of Dubh mac Dubh, Duff is Gruadh’s cousin, although she does not trust him and has no fondness for him. An ally of King Malcolm and later Duncan, Malcolm installs Duff as mormaer of Fife after Bodhe’s murder.
The Saxon King in the latter half of the novel. He forms an alliance with Malcolm mac Duncan.
An old woman who gives Gruadh prophecies about her own and Macbeth's life.
A Saxon king with whom King Malcolm meets in order to has out Scotland's southern border.
Malcolm mac Malbríd
A cousin of Macbeth's, who along with Gilcomgan murders Macbeth's father Finlach in order to gain power.
Gruadh's aunt, who gives Gruadh pagan charms to leave with the bodies of Gruadh's mother and baby sister after her mother and sister die in childbirth.