For readers interested in Scottish history, specifically the Scottish Wars of Independence, you will be interested to hear about Jack Whyte’s trilogy The Guardians. The Forest Laird is the first in the trilogy, and focuses on William Wallace. Books two and three focus on other heroes of Scotland, Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, and Sir James Douglas, also known as “Black Douglas”. It’s obvious that Whyte has a love for Scotland, as he does his home country credit by breathing new life into its history and giving a new generation an opportunity to learn about its legends.
It is pre-dawn on August 24th, 1305, and the Scottish hero William Wallace is set to die. Sentenced to be executed for his crimes against the English and high treason, Wallace is visited by a priest to give his last confession. The priest, Father Jamie, also happens to be Wallace’s cousin. As a cleric librarian, he feels obligated to record and tell the story of their upbringing and adventures throughout their adult lives. Although much is known of his battles and life as the hero of the Wars of Scottish Independence, Whyte’s tale shows us the rise of this complex man and the trials he faces on his way to becoming the great general that he was. Whyte’s tale is as complex and involved as the conflict between England and Scotland. Through Whyte’s prose we get to see an exciting life that shaped the man we think we all know so well through popular culture.
Personally, as I have Scottish heritage in my family line, I was extremely interested in Whyte’s work. Growing up in America, Scottish history was not something that was covered in class. Until arriving in college, where I had the ability to choose my own courses, my history curriculum mainly consisted of American history with a small amount of British history. When given the chance to read historical fiction that used William Wallace as its base, I eagerly jumped at the chance. History buffs will be pleased with the amount of research that so obviously went into Whyte’s work. He makes a point (going so far as to write an author’s note about it) to take what the public learned from Braveheart and fix the inconsistencies and gaps in Wallace’s story.
While the novel is very dense, readers should not be deterred from charging on, as the novel is jam-packed with action and adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The most interesting thing about this entire novel is the fact that the vision of Wallace we’re given is told through the eyes of Father Jamie. In having Jamie tell the story, Wallace is looked upon affectionately and his story is told with true warmth. Overall, this book will make a great addition to any historical fiction fan’s library.
4 out of 5 Stars
This is my fourteenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge
The Forest Laird by Jack Whyte
Hardcover: 512 pages
Special thanks to Tor/Forge books for sending me my review copy!