This is a well-written and almost totally accurate work of historical fiction told from the point of view of James Douglas, the oldest son of Sir William Douglas the Hardy. Artistic license, of course, is taken for the sake of the story and in order to keep it from reading like a history text.
Artistic license may also account for the date used in the Prologue. The sample opens in September, 1300 in Paris and young James Douglas has just learned of his father’s death in the Tower of London. Most sources say William Douglas’ death occurred in 1298, though some put it in 1299. Even if it was in 1299 I can’t see it taking until September 1300 for a letter containing the news to reach France.
Chapter One begins in July 1304, a few days after the siege of Stirling Castle by Edward I. James has become a squire to Bishop William de Lamberton, who had been his father’s friend. Determined that James should regain his heritage and in turn help the Scots cause, Lamberton asks that he swear allegiance to the English king. However the audience with Edward is short. He is furious to be asked to take fealty from the son of William Douglas whom he believes was a traitor and threatens to hang James if Lamberton doesn’t take him away quickly. Shortly after this Bishop Lamberton begins a secret alliance with Robert the Bruce.
The brutal execution of William Wallace in August of 1305 forces Douglas and Bishop Lamberton to flee from London to St. Andrews in Scotland. Wallace had been carrying letters when he was captured that endangered several people, including Lamberton.
The sample ends with the beginning of Chapter 3. It is March 1306 and Bishop Lamberton is forced to host a party of visiting English knights. During the evening meal a squire arrives from Lochmaben Castle with a message from Robert the Bruce.
Given that Robert the Bruce was crowned King of Scotland in March 1306 after murdering his rival Red Comyn, the message that the Bishop receives must be news of the coronation.
Although this well-researched work follows historical events very closely for the most part, it is far from a dry recounting of facts. The author breathes life into his characters and into the Scottish Wars of Independence. It is also well edited and formatted, based on this sample. And, as far as I could see, the sample contains only one mistake (other than the beginning date)—the word “censors” is used in place of “censers” during the scene in which Bishop Lamberton meets Robert the Bruce in a church and makes an alliance with him.
For those who enjoy realistic and unromanticized historical fiction, this is a winner. As James Douglas went on to become Sir James Douglas (also known as Black Douglas and Good Sir James) and a scourge of the English, this trilogy will make for rousing adventure.