“The Forest Laird” by Jack Whyte (Forge Books, 2012)

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Jack Whyte has delighted audiences with his fantastic Arthurian series, The Camulod Chronicles, as well as his Knights Templar trilogy.  He now returns with the first in his Guardians trilogy, as he begins the telling of the story of one of the most renowned people in Scottish history, William Wallace.  Made all the more renowned by Mel Gibson’s incredible portrayal in the award-winning Braveheart, Whyte admits in his introduction that it was hard to tell another story about William Wallace that wasn’t the same as the lengthy movie.  It is, however, recommended that you watch this movie before you read the book, simply so that you have the wonderful, unique sound of a strong Scottish accent freshly in your mind when you begin reading the dialogue in The Forest Laird.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Wallace’s close cousin, Jaime, as it begins when they are young boys, involved in a horrible incident, they soon make a new friend who takes them in and begins their training in warrior skills, and most importantly with the impressive longbow.  Jaime eventually begins teaching to become a priest, while with Wallace’s training as a strong warrior complete, he becomes a forester, looking to protect those in need.  Matters in Scotland begin to take a turn for the worse, as the English exact their control of the independent Scottish and Wallace begins to do his part to stop the English looking to harm his people, and begin the war that will change Scotland forever.

The Forest Laird begins a little slow, as Whyte front loads with a lot of story that needs speeding up, and breaks up the flow with lengthy descriptions on the political state of the country and what England is up to.  Yet, overall the book is an interesting opening chapter into the life of this incredible hero, as Whyte, who has done the research, explores as well as creates his own unique story.

Originally written on March 17, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

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