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 muThis 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!