Review: The Douglas Bastard by JR Tomlin

Young Archibald, the Black Douglas’s bastard son, returns from exile to a Scotland ravaged by war. The war-hardened Knight of Liddesdale will teach him what he must learn. And with danger on every side, he must learn to sleep with one eye open and a claymore in his hand because even their closest ally may betray them…

My Review: The Douglas Bastard

In this first book of Archibald the Grim series, we see a youth who is far from grim. He’s on his way up through the ranks, and because of his illegitimacy, he has much to prove. A young scion of the Douglas clan, Archie was taken as a page by Sir William of Liddesdale and travels from France where he had resided with the young King David in exile:

“Och, you are like your father.” Sir William’s mouth twitched in what might have been a smile. “God kens that you look like him. I think you will be his very image when you’re grown.”
“My mum always said so.” My chest swelled with pride. “I will be a great knight like he was. I am learning as fast as I can with the sword, and I’m as good as the squires on a horse.”
“Braw feats indeed.”
My heart was thudding like a running horse, and the words gushed out before I could stop them. “Will you take me back with you when you return? No one thinks me of any account here, so they will not care. And I will work hard. Let me be your page.”

And so he began his Scottish education, and learned his skills through warfare from the very beginning. Although he was warned to stay in the background, Archie always jumped in where fighting was the thickest, much to the annoyance of Sir William, for the lad was not good at obeying his commands. Still, he was not overly punished, either, and became a squire in short order. Alas, Sir William proved to be a problematic and imprudent subject to King David, much to Archie’s chagrin, though he continued to serve the wayward knight until he became a knight himself. I would have liked to have seen more conflict of interest in Archie’s mind, but the focus of the book was rather on battle and the Scots did not fare well. Archie’s education was grim, indeed.

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Meet JR Tomlin

J R Tomlin is the author of twenty historical novels.

Her historical novels are mainly set in Scotland. You can trace her love of that nation to the stories of Robert the Bruce and the Black Douglas that her grandmother read her when she was small and to her hillwalking through the Scottish Cairngorms where the granite mountains have a gorgeous red glow under the setting sun.

In addition to having lived in Scotland, she has traveled in the US, mainland Europe and the Pacific Rim. She now lives in Oregon.

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