A King Ensnared: A Historical Novel of Scotland (Volume One). J. R. Tomlin. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. November 2013. 244 pp. ISBN#: 9781493786598.
Prince James Stewart, son of the weak King Robert of Scotland, begins his youth lamenting that his father refused to save James’s brother from starving to death in prison. Even after James is taken captive by the King of England, his father does nothing about a ransom and James is confounded when he tries to mourn his spineless father’s death and yet mourns the loss of a father. King Robert’s half-brother, the Duke of Albany, refuses to acknowledge James as King of Scotland and fights with the French against the King of England. James pays the price of it all!
For many, many years James remains the prisoner of King Henry IV and V, a pawn which both Kings use to stop Scotland aiding the French and to bind their loyalty to the English Crown. James comes close to madness from his boredom but manages with reading courtly literature, learning to fight with sword and wrestling skills, writing literate poetry worthy of the noblest bards in history, and attempting to maintain his integrity as King. He frequently refuses to sign agreements to which he knows his Scottish leaders would never agree. The first King Henry made his son promise to free James, but that remained to be seen. James will first train in war and become an actual English knight before he fights with the King against France. There he sees justice supersede mercy, a belief that such acts guarantees people will obey out of fear rather than love and trust!
James comes across as a strong character, trained intellectually and physically to act like a King. He gradually earns the respect not only of his servants in prison but also his captors. The author presumes that the reader knows his or her history well and if not it might be difficult for the reader to figure out who is against who and why. There are lists of characters, a glossary and a short synopsis of previous novels which would help in this area; but this makes it difficult for this novel to be a stand-alone story that the reader can follow easily.
Still, all in all, A King Ensnared is an engaging story about the beginnings of a well-known historical character who had a significant impact on English, French and Scottish history!