Monday, 31 October 2011

A Kingdom's Cost (The Douglas Trilogy Book 1) - J.R. Tomlin



Title: A Kingdom's Cost (The Douglas Trilogy Book 1)
Author: J.R. Tomlin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 2011
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
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“A Kingdom’s Cost” is the first book of the Douglas Trilogy which continues the story of the Scottish Wars of Independence started in Tomlin’s previous book, “Freedom’s Sword”. The novel is mainly about James Douglas, who would become known as The Black Douglas, an important follower of Robert de Bruce. The story follows Douglas from his life in Paris where he was hidden by his father to avoid being used as a hostage, through his time as a squire to a Scottish Bishop and then to his service under the newly crowned King of Scots, Robert de Bruce. This progressed from the early military defeats, then on to some of the guerrilla raids and finally to the battle of Loudon Hill where the outnumbered Scottish forces proved they could beat the English in a battle.

As a Scottish person I was looking forward to reading this book and its depiction of a rather pivotal point in Scottish history. I was actually glad to see the story was being told from the view point of James Douglas as I will admit I didn’t know much about him beyond the fact he had been called The Black Douglas. As with “Freedom’s Sword” it was nice to see some detail and importance being given to someone that wasn’t Bruce or Wallace.

The plot really draws you along as you want to know what happens next to the characters and I enjoyed it immensely. The action sequences are gripping and I have to say that J.R. Tomlin once again describes the battles in a manner that really enables the reader to picture the horror of medieval warfare and feel part of it all. I would note that the violence detailed is all relevant to telling the story and none if it came across as being gratuitous or excessive. It isn’t just the battles that Tomlin has created well; she really brings out the individual experiences such as the weight of armour, the various smells and the difficult life that people in those ages would have suffered through.

One nice improvement I saw in this book over “Freedom’s Sword” was that there was more time spent exploring the personal lives of the characters and the build up to various events and battles. Whilst some of the character development was probably hampered by having to stick to some historical facts, the author has done well in creating characters who you are interested in. I think that the author has been able to do this by spreading the story of Douglas over a trilogy rather than trying to cram it all into one single novel. Simply put, the balance between the military encounters and the personal aspects is good and I think it will ensure the book appeals to more people.

In summary, I really enjoyed this novel and will be looking forward to the second instalment. After reading it, I was quickly on the internet to learn a little bit more about James Douglas, in my opinion that shows what a good historical fiction novel this is. It has inspired me to really try and learn more about this man and I hope it will inspire some other readers to also find out a little bit more about this very colourful and interesting period of history.