Publication Date: November 16, 2013
Length: 288 pages
As I wrote on Sunday in my Stacking the Shelves post, I have seen Tomlin's books everywhere for years. I have had her Black Douglas series in my Kindle for a very long time. For some reason I just never was very interested in trying them. Probably because I've been immersed in the Crusades and the Plantagenets this time period in Scottish history just wasn't something I wanted to delve into. But looking for something different I decided to give this book a try.
Young James Stewart is heartbroken at the death of his older brother, David Stewart, starved to death in a dungeon by his evil Uncle, the Duke of Albany who is plotting to seize power for himself. King Robert III is dying and in order to save James the decision is made to remove him from his scheming relatives' grasp. Before he can be taken to safety in France, he is captured at sea by pirates who take him to London where he is imprisoned by King Henry IV.
Although he is deeply unhappy about his situation, James is nonetheless treated somewhat well by the King who resolves to educate him and treat him with some dignity. James grows to accept that he will probably not be let out anytime soon and as the years pass he tries to do the best he can with his frustrating circumstances. He trains as a knight, writes poetry, falls in love, and longs for Scotland and his birthright. When Henry IV dies and his merciless son Henry V becomes King, James finds himself often balancing a tightrope of demanding the respect he feels he deserves as Scottish royalty, while trying to hang on and not incur the wrath of the English monarch. He feels if he can be patient and focused enough, he might just find his way back to his homeland and all that awaits him there.
I learned a lot about this area of history that I didn't already know. I had read about James and his poetry but didn't really know all the background of his imprisonment and his interaction with both Henry IV and V. You really became fond of James due to his loyalty to his duty and his unwillingness to cave when faced with multiple attempts by the English to renounce his crown and be set free. James is very clear that he desperately longs for that freedom but will not be bought cheaply at the expense of his country. I thought he showed a lot of bravery and courage for his young age and know I couldn't fare as well as he did.
The book was just okay though. It had enough positives for me to recommend it if you are interested in the Stewarts and their early back story. And the author does a good job of describing life in the time and place she sets the story in. There is enough here for those who like battles as well as personal stories and like I stated above, you do become somewhat attached to James and his suffering. Unfortunately though it did become a bit slow and dragged as it went on. I found myself skimming towards the end. I know the next couple of books in the series deal more with life after his imprisonment and as he becomes King of Scotland so they might be better. There were too many battles and fighting for my taste too here but if you like that sort of detail it might be your thing. I'm not sure when I'll read the next one but the nice thing is they are fairly short, easy reads so you can pick it up and follow it without the need for deep concentration. Overall, a good, solid, well researched history story with a personal connection to the main character.