The city of Berwick, stolen by the English, lies ripe for retaking.
With the English King Edward away attempting to conquer France, Archie joins his cousin, the Lord of Douglas, in this perilous venture. But soon, King Edward returns, determined to take back Berwick and conquer Scotland once and for all. Faced with an invasion by a massive army, Archie and his comrades-in-arms must take desperate measures to save their homeland and their freedom.
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J R Tomlin is the author of nineteen historical novels.
Her historical novels are mainly set in Scotland. You can trace her love of that nation to the stories her grandmother read her when she was small and to her hillwalking through the Cairngorms where the granite mountains have a gorgeous red glow under the setting sun.
In addition to spending time in Scotland, she has traveled in the US, mainland Europe and the Pacific Rim. She now lives in Oregon.
War did terrible things to us and not only to our bodies.
Having read and reviewed the previous installments of this series by J. R. Tomlin, the Archibald the Grim: Historical Novels of Scotland, this book stands out among them all. Archie Douglas, the bastard son of the Black Douglas, comes into his own as a man, fighting side by side with courageous Scottish knights as they fight to keep King Edward of England from conquering their homeland. From start to finish this is battle upon battle, full of gritty realism and immense historical accounts of the events.
The vast English host flowed like a silver flood past the narrow blue of the Teviot Water, where it met the Tweed. Huge banners were in the lead and hundreds of smaller banners and pennants whipped in the strong wind. On and on they came, too far to make out individual men but spilling forth knights on heavy destriers, their armor shining in the pale sun. Behind them, even more on lighter mounts. Gil shook his head. “I never dreamed there could be so large an army.”
From retaking the city of Berwick, to Archie's remarkable escape after bolstering the French army across the sea against the Black Prince, this story truly breathes life into Archibald Douglas as a brave knight, consummate friend, and loyal patriot to the Scottish land and king. Woven throughout the battle scenes, you truly get a sense of Archie's struggles as he fights with his own guilt about the death of the Lord of Liddesdale and his desire to find some sort of peace and forgiveness.
William Douglas, Lord of Liddesdale. And the words requiescat in pace. I laid my hads on the cool stone, my head so heavy with grief that it bent from the weight of it, and my throat was so tight that it ached. I had done what I had been convinced that I had to do. And I had known he would die for his treason. But nothing erased the hatred on his face when he shouted, “Betrayer!” When he came at me in his murderous rage, if Douglas had not put a sword through his back... Could I have killed him?.... I beat my fist on the stone, welcoming the pain.
The respite moments, and tender moments, such as the tournament set up by the French king to entertain the vast army while awaiting for battle, and Archie's reacquaintance with the woman he loved at the convent where she now resides, brings the needed respite in the midst of all the full-on, action-packed battle scenes. For the most part, one might could read this as a stand-alone without having read any of the other books, however, to get the full measure of Archie as a character, this reviewer suggests reading them all form the beginning. For anyone who loves Scottish history, this one is not to be missed, and J. R. Tomlin is to be commended for the flowing narrative and astounding historical research which flows out in the battles as if she stood right there and watched it all unfold.
Suddenly, I realized with surprise – I wanted to go home. I was tired of fighting in someone elses' land when our own needed to be rebuilt. What had we gained for attacking the English at Berwick at the French behest except death and destruction? Was there something wrong with a knight who wanted that? Perhaps. Or perhaps that was what we needed. I would think about that tomorrow if I lived so long. Impatiently, I slapped the visor on my bascinet open. This was no time for melancholia or pining. And I would fight with it open, so I could see to kill what was in front of me.
As a way of historical background, while this book features the retaking of Berwick, the next battle, the Battle of Poitiers is where Archie's appearance is first recorded in history. Traveling with his cousin, Will, in these wars against the Black Prince, to help King John II of France after Edward III of England enacted a truce after the disastrous loss at Berwick, Archie seeks penance after the death of William Douglas of Liddesdale. Tomlin truly captures the horrors of battle, and the terrible loss of life for the French in this battle, including the capture of King John, many of his noblemen, and Archie and Will. In a great “act”, Will helped Archie escape and he managed to make his way back to Scotland. You can truly feel his desire to return home and his sheer exhaustion after years of fighting and killing. When he reunites with King David of Scotland, who, himself returned to Scotland after his release from King Edward, the stage is set for the next book in this series and the continued life and adventures of Archibald Douglas. All in all, this book is very well done; it is page-turning, and action-packed from cover to cover, with well-developed characters, and prepares a reader well for reading both the previous installments and future ones to come.
As we rode, a murmuration of starlings swirled into the sky, twisting and turning in a dark cloud. We paused for a moment to watch their display, but my mind felt as swirling. How much might a man change in ten years? What would our king be like now? He had suggested an English heir to the throne. If his loyalty had changed, what would I do? I put my heels to my horse's flanks and rode on. Whatever the king was now, it would mean a change in our destiny. Of that I was sure.
“A Time for War” by J R Tomlin receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company