Noble Traitor: A Historical Novel of Scotland

Written by J. R. Tomlin
Review by Sally Zigmond

Before the Act of Union in 1707, Scotland and England were frequently at war. Noble Traitor, the first in a series, introduces Thomas Randolph, squire to Lord Gordon and nephew of Robert the Bruce. Historical documents tell us very little about Randolph, not even his date of birth, which leaves the door open for historical novelists. Tomlin paints Thomas as a brash young man eager to be a knight. Like most young men of noble birth, much of his education is on horseback and in how to use a sword.

Thomas fights valiantly for The Bruce, King of the Scots, but after the Battle of Methven in 1306, he is taken prisoner. To save his life, Gordon gives Thomas into the keeping of the Earl of Lincoln. After watching his comrades cruelly put to death, Thomas swears fealty to King Edward in order to save Gordon’s family from vengeance; whether this is a noble act or the expediency of war isn’t quite clear. As English forces search for The Bruce, Thomas gets caught up in the battles from the other side and finds his allegiance tested.

The novel’s driving question is presumably who Thomas will eventually choose to fight with, and fight for; his loyalties become more and more questionable when King Edward dies and Thomas swears fealty to Edward II, even though the new king’s clear favouritism of Piers Gaveston shows questionable judgment. But character development isn’t the strength here; this novel is for readers who want derring-do, sword fights, and clashing knights in armour. Fans who know the First Scottish War of Independence from Mel Gibson’s Braveheart will love Noble Traitor.