Review: A Kingdom’s Cost, A Historical Novel of Scotland by J.R. Tomlin


Scotland is under the heel of a brutal English conqueror. James Douglas, a dispossessed young nobleman, is tied to the conquered land by birth and blood—but questions who can fight for their suffering kingdom. But battle is his destiny, and when Robert the Bruce takes the crown, James throws his lot in with the man he believes can lead the fight against English tyranny.

But disaster follows. The Bruce is soon a fugitive. Scottish resistance crushed. The woman James loves is captured and imprisoned. Yet James believes their cause is not lost. With driving determination, he blazes a path in blood and violence, in cunning and ruthlessness as he wages a guerrilla war to restore Scotland’s freedom.

My Review

The story of Robert the Bruce’s struggle against Edward I is one of the saddest histories I think I ever ran across. To say the English king was ruthless is an understatement; his cruelty knew no bounds. The Bruce was fortunate to have loyal Scots who were willing to die for him—and many did, horribly. Jamie, the Black Douglas was one of his champions—and more; he was truly the foundation of Robert’s shaky throne. This story was told from Jamie’s point of view, from an awkward youth to a resourceful young man who let nothing stand in his way. War forced him to commit deeds that would have been considered atrocities in peace time, and his conscience suffered terribly. But anything less would have been catastrophic to their cause:

Bruce sprang to his feet and strode around the room. “Revenge? I—I want it. But—” He swung around. “Can I kill every man who’s sided with the English this year past? Every English who’s held a castle in our land?”

“No.” James rubbed his beard. “Not revenge in truth, though I want it. Yet, if those men had lived, my people of Douglasdale would have been killed. I couldn’t let the English know who had aided me and let Clifford take his revenge on them.” He gave a hard sigh. “So I killed the prisoners instead—after they surrendered their swords to me. There’ve been days when I’ve felt I’d never be rid of the blood. But I did what I had to do.”

This is a story of bravery, of sacrifices, of despair. The innocent townspeople and country folk had no say in the matter, yet they paid the price of Bruce’s defiance against Edward I. But the alternative—the loss of freedom, the acceptance of English overlordship—was unthinkable. So they had no choice but to go on, even when it seemed they had already failed. So many lives were damaged beyond repair—and too many lost, of course. But throughout there was hope in the face of the impossible, and miraculous successes. We are faced with a world turned upside-down, where life-and-death decisions defy logic, and the end justifies the means. This is a compelling story and I highly recommend it.


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