Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Reality focus goes awry in Wallace tale

  • Print

The Forest Laird

A Tale of William Wallace

By Jack Whyte

Viking Canada, 496 Pages, $36

THE history of Scotland's 14th-century wars of independence are probably most remembered by a North American audience through Mel Gibson's 1995 epic Braveheart, where the hero William Wallace attempted to find peace for his countrymen and paid for it with his life.

B.C. author Jack Whyte, originally a native of Scotland, wants to capture those moments of strife, honour and warfare through his new Guardians Trilogy -- popular fiction centred around three of Scotland's most notable characters: James "the Black" Douglas, William Wallace, and Robert the Bruce.

The first in the series, The Forest Laird, focuses on William Wallace and the life-changing events that forced him to battle English oppression until his final days when he was executed.

Whyte's portrayal is so detailed and painstakingly researched it's almost difficult to call this fiction. A complete departure from the sensationalized version told by Hollywood, Whyte's tale is serious and reverent.

Told from the point of view of Wallace's childhood friend and cousin, the priest Jamie Wallace, the tale follows the two men from childhood through the events that would make William Wallace a legend centuries later.

Unfortunately, what starts out as a neatly drawn story about Wallace's childhood and ascent to manhood becomes bogged down in political rhetoric, moral philosophy and pages of dull conversation about the tedious relationships between the earls, barons and kings of the time.

It's also hard to decide if having the story told from the third party point of view is successful. At times, Jamie Wallace's observations of his cousin provide an excellent technique for character development, but at other times, one wonders how much of the action Jamie misses cloistered away with the priests.

Whyte's prose is punctuated with moments of tension that contrast perfectly with the book's sombre tone. For example, when William Wallace meets his future wife, Jaime remarks, "William Wallace's life, and all of Scotland's destiny, had been changed forever."

However, as Wallace becomes more entwined in his conflict with the British, the story loses momentum as it becomes too bogged down in the details of history.

Whyte is the author of numerous historical novels including his well-known A Dream of Eagles series, which details the life and times of King Arthur. Although Whyte is known to eschew the mysticism typical of the genre -- choosing instead to use historical conditions to explain Arthur's rise to power, for example -- this focus on reality goes awry in The Forest Laird.

Here Whyte's ability to spin a good tale with at least a touch of humour and drama is significantly absent.

Nisha Tuli is a Winnipeg writer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 25, 2010 H7

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Fire destroys one St. Norbert home, damages another

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-(Standup photo)- Humming Around- A female ruby -throated hummingbird fly's through the bee bomb  flowers Friday at the Assiniboine Park English Garden- Nectar from flowers are their main source of food. Hummingbirds wings can beat as fast as 75x times second. Better get a glimpse of them soon the birds fly far south for the winter - from Mexico to South America- JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Sept 10, 2009
  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 101130-Winnipeg Free Press Columns of light reach skyward to the stars above Sanford Mb Tuesday night. The effect is produced by streetlights refracting through ice crystals suspended in the air on humid winter nights. Stand Up.....

View More Gallery Photos


Should Canada send heavy military equipment to Ukraine?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google