A Kingdom's Cost
by J.R. Tomlin
received from the author for review via Library Thing member giveaways
This novel is the first book of the Douglas Trilogy. It follows James Douglas, son of Sir William Douglas, Lord of Douglas. Sir William was a supporter of William Wallace, and he sent James to Paris when Edward Longshanks was holding first born sons as hostages. The novel starts with James learning that his father had died while imprisoned in the Tower of London, and James heads back to Scotland and ends up in the service of Bishop Lamberton. The Bishop convinces Douglas to try to pledge allegiance to Edward in hopes of reclaiming the Douglas lands, but Edward rejects his pledge on account of his father.
After the execution of William Wallace the following year, James decided to pledge his allegiance to Robert de Bruce. Bruce was crowned, first by Bishop Lamberton, and again on the following day by Isabella MacDuff, claiming the rights of the Earl of Fife to crown the Scottish King. James Douglas becomes infatuated with Isabella, wife of John Comyn, during their first meeting, and during his subsequent battles and evasions of the English, his thoughts remain with her. Bruce and his supporters face many defeats and setbacks, from defeat at Methven, to the betrayal of his wife, sisters, daughter, and Isabella MacDuff, who were being escorted to safety.
After spending the winter in northern Scotland, James returns to his lands to raise men in support of Bruce. Once there, he meets with Thomas Dickson, a former vassal of his father, and they rally together men to first conduct a surprise Clifford's men (Clifford being awarded the Douglas land when William was imprisoned). The incident became known as the Douglas Larder, because the captured English were executed and placed in the cellar with remaining stores and the castle set on fire. The novel ends up with the Battle of Loudoun Hill, and its aftermath.
Earlier in the year I had review Tomlin's Freedom's Sword, which was set a few years earlier than the events in this book. My biggest comment on that was that it was so battle focused, and that it would have been nice to have more of Moray's personal life explored to balance out the military life. I do not have the same feelings on A Kingdom's Cost. Between James's relationship with Isabella, and later with Alycie Dickson, there is a nice balance between the military and personal aspects of James's life. This had the same quick pace as the other novel. This also has the good battle descriptions, which are descriptive enough to be able to picture the battles, but not in so great a detail that might turn off some readers. I really enjoyed this novel and will be looking forward to the second installment.