I like historical fiction. I like military history. I like Scotland. So I was pretty sure I'd like Freedom's Sword, and as I turned off my kindle after reading the last word, I sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed my visit to the first Scottish War of Independence.
A little background: Scotland was once upon a time a completely free and independent entity from England. But back in the 1200's a squabble between potential claimants to the throne ended up with Edward I deciding he was in charge. This sparked the first Scottish War of Independence. Most Americans are vaguely familiar with this because we've seen Braveheart. Unlike Freedom's Sword, Braveheart played pretty fast and loose with the facts to make a romantic, compelling story. Tomlin thought the truth was compelling enough, and from what I can tell stuck pretty closely to it. Personally, I agree with her.
So, as the tale opens we meet Andrew Moray, brand new knight about to go off on his first battle. It goes horribly, he's taken captive, and after months of torment in an English dungeon and a breath-taking escape, he returns to Scotland with a burning desire to reconquer his homeland. From there we follow him as he rounds up a force of like minded men and retakes northern Scotland from the English.
It's a good story. And I read most of it over the Forth of July weekend, so a tale of booting out the English seemed especially resonant. Battle scenes are vibrant without being overblown. Details of place are in enough depth to give an image of what is happening, but not so dense that you need to hack through them with a machete to find the plot. Most of the secondary characters are well enough defined that you won't confuse them with each other. The history is well researched and alive. It's what moves the story along as opposed to being scenery.
If I wanted anything from Freedom's Sword, it was actually more history on what exactly was happening and why. I'm well versed on medieval history, weaponry, and tactics, so I was following along pretty well, but a bit more on how Edward I ended up in charge, why they were rebelling against him in the first place, how things were different under Toom Tabard, why Robert the Bruce was a natural claimant to the throne, and how the Scottish political system worked would have been useful. With Tomlin's obvious love of the subject and deft writing, I would have been well pleased by another fifty pages of background.
There was one jarring aspect of Freedom's Sword. For some reason it suddenly shifts point of view (POV) to Caitrina, Andrew's Lady. And while I thought more or less everything involving Andrew was interesting, I rapidly lost interest when the story shifted to Caitrina. (Fortunately it didn't happen too often.) It's not that her story was badly written, nor was it boring per se; it just didn't have a lot to do with the rest of the plot. There's nothing that happens from Caitrina's POV that couldn't be dealt with in a few lines of dialog with her talking to Andrew. There's nothing added by hopping to her head. She's so tangentially related to the plot that at one point twenty-seven chapters go by without a mention of her. It almost feels like there was a plan to do a secondary story line of life on the home front, but somehow it didn't make it into the final story. Personally I would have liked to have seen that sort of a storyline. I think Tomlin could have done many fine things with it, but that will have to remain in the wish stage.
Beyond that my only other complaint was the lack of idea of when thing happen. We get one date stamp in the beginning of the tale and another at the very end. Some in between would have made it easier to keep track of what was going on.
All in all I enjoyed Freedom's Sword quiet a bit, and look forward to seeing what else Tomlin will come up with.