Wednesday, February 22, 2012

REVIEW + GIVEAWAY: The Forest Laird by Jack Whyte

 Synopsis (from Amazon): In the pre-dawn hours of August 24th, 1305, in London’s Smithfield Prison, the outlaw William Wallace—hero of all the Scots and deadly enemy of King Edward of England—sits awaiting the dawn, when he is to be hanged and then drawn and quartered. This brutal sundering of his body is the revenge of the English. Wallace is visited by a Scottish priest who has come to hear his last confession, a priest who knows Wallace like a brother. Wallace's confession—the tale that follows—is all the more remarkable because it comes from real life. 

We follow Wallace through his many lives—as outlaw and fugitive, hero and patriot, rebel and kingmaker. His exploits and escapades, desperate struggles and victorious campaigns are all here, as are the high ideals and fierce patriotism that drove him to abandon the people he loved to save his country. 

My thoughts: This book starts out by introducing William Wallace and his cousin Jamie as small boys when their home is attacked by English soldiers who brutally murder the rest of the family.  Jamie narrates the tale and we follow the two boys as they grow into young men under the care of their Uncle who takes them in after their traumatic ordeal.  While the boys are close growing up, it becomes clear that their lives will take different paths as Jamie becomes more interested in the Church and scholarly pursuits and William in learning fighting techniques, weapons (particularly the English longbow) and learning the land as a Forrester. As the Scottish stand helplessly by while more and more English Soldiers invade their homes-raping, pillaging, abusing the populace and accusing innocent citizens of being outlaws-William decides to take a stand which makes him hated and feared by the English.

Wallace is a figure that not a whole lot is known about (unless you count what you "learned" from watching Mel Gibson in Braveheart) and Jack Whyte breathes life into this character who is often raised to mythical proportions.  I loved the author's idea of what William may have been like in his youth and also the realistic portrayal of this legendary figure.  Wallace isn't some giant who threatens to take on all the English single-handedly.  If you are look for the in your face William Wallace that  you get in the Gibson movie, that character doesn't exist here. Here he is a man who would have loved to live a peaceful life in the forest with his beloved wife Mirren but is instead pushed into reacting by the actions of the English. The manner in which he hampers the English (by taking to Selkirk forest and attacking them as they pass through) bears a bit of a resemblance to that other legendary hero-Robin Hood.  The supporting characters including Jamie and Ewan who befriends the boys at an early age and becomes William's right hand man are well fleshed out and the history of medieval Scotland contained in the book is fascinating.  The only area of contention for me was when the characters would discuss the political maneuverings of the Scottish King and his cabinet, King Edward's motivation and the struggles for the throne, it would get a bit tedious.  I understand the necessity of including this so the reader would get a full picture of exactly what was happening in Scotland at the time but the level of detail presented in doing so made it a bit dull.  Fortunately these passages were few and far between and other than these areas I found this book to be immensely enjoyable.

This book clocks in at over 500 pages and I was so engrossed I sped through it in no time.  I loved this fresh take on the legendary William Wallace and I thought Jamie Wallace was a perfect medium through which to present William's story.  I would also like to mention that this book is the first in a planned trilogy with the second book taking on the story of Robert the Bruce and the final book in the trilogy will revolve around Sir James Douglas (the Black Douglas).  I can't wait to continue on with these two stories and I definitely recommend this one!

 I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


I am offering a copy of The Forest Laird to one lucky reader!

This giveaway is open to: US

To enter: Leave your name and email address in the comments.  One extra entry each will be given for helping spread the word via Twitter, Facebook, or posting on your blog.

Giveaway is open until: midnight on February 29th.  Winner will be announced on March 1st.


  1. I read this one recently and I really liked it too. I liked how Whyte turned away from the legend and tried to write about what the real man might have been like.

  2. Great review, Holly. I'll definitely be moving this one up closer to the top of my tbr pile.

  3. Enjoyed your review. I would like to know more about the read William Wallace. Thanks for the giveaway.

  4. I would love to read this! Thanks for the opportunity to win it.
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  5. I had to crack up at your comment about 'learning' via the Gibson movie, as that was my first introduction to Wallace. Great review -- I'm adding this to my TBR because it sounds marvelous!

  6. Thanks for the giveaway! I would love to read this novel.

  7. I admit that the cover of this book threw me off, but your review got me interested!

    glavi47 at yahoo dot com

  8. This sounds like a really great book and would be interesting to read!


  9. This sounds fantastic! I love Scottish historical fiction :-) I agree with Stacy (above) though, bad cover and if it wasn't for your review I probably wouldn't have really looked twice at it.


  10. In spite of being a bit squeamish, I'd really like to read this novel. Thanks for the chance.

    nanze55 at hotmail dot com

  11. I would love to win this--I'm going to Scotland in June.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Love this period of history!
    booknutsreadingclub at gmail dot com

  14. I've never read anything by Whyte but this sounds like a great place to start. Thanks for the giveaway!
    susan (at) susancoventry (dot) com

  15. I'm definitely interested in this book. I love epics (a la Sharon Kay Penman), and 500+ pages simply doesn't bother me at all. I think it leaves a lot of room for character development in fact. I'm certainly interested in a realistic portrayal of Wallace--Mel Gibson's was way over the top. An experienced actor, and he couldn't do a natural sounding Scottish accent!

  16. I would love to receive this book! It's nice to see a book about Scotland that isn't a romance novel. William Wallace is fascinating and this sounds like a great read. curlygeek04(at)gmail(dot)com.

  17. I would love this for my hubby. He loves William Wallace.