Since The Forest Laird is a bit longer than what I normally review on the blog and I haven’t had much reading time I want to record my impressions as I go.
Speaking of which I have been really enjoying Mark Reads’ chapter by chapter reviews of the Hunger Games. I like experiencing books along with others, and reading his impressions of small details and his surprise as he goes along rather than a summary when he is done makes it feel like talking to a friend about books you are reading more than reading a review of a book you might want to read.
Anyway back to the Forest Laird! I remarked earlier on how much I love Jack Whyte’s use of language and half way through the book this is still true. I think the formal almost poetic language of the narrator suits him, after all Jamie is both a priest and a librarian and his education at the Abby would be very formal. Will’s dialogue has a celtic slang to it that I would love to hear out loud but he is still much more formal than most characters I read in YA. This makes sense because a) the time period b) his education at the Abby c) his upper class family so even though he prefers a lifestyle of physical exertion in the forest he would speak what seems like formally to contemporary youth.
I’m torn on how I feel about Jamie narrating rather than Will. I find Jamie’s perspective on Scotland as a whole, the library, and Will’s childhood interesting. However I’m just past a point in the book where Will hadn’t been seen in years, and I would have liked those years to be recounted by Will himself. I think Whyte could have used letters to Jamie as a method of getting Will’s perspective in there. I was under the impression that this was going to be the case but haven’t come across it so far. Sometimes Jamie is too far removed from the action and I’d rather be in the thick of it.
Jamie is also a conscious narrator, and he acknowledges that his story is being read by strangers in the future.
“I live already in a land full of people who have never known the fear and uncertainty, the daily terrors and hopelessness, that haunted their parents and their grandparents in those now fa-off times. The Scots folk today rememeber nothing of the Grand Cauuse, apart from dreary, scarce believe old tales by their elders…..Thus i am forced, if some future reader is to understand my tale, to deal to some extent, at least, with recent history, if for no other reason than to identify the people and events that were to shape my unfortunate cousin’s destiny”
I understand the point of this passage. I am one of those ignorant people in the future, unsure of what happened in that historical time period. I don’t remember how it all went down and I need the background story. I also know that for him to outline it all wouldn’t make sense as someone from that time unless he was intending on recording it for future generations (as a priest and librarian in his time period this would be a priority for him because back then monks were like publishers and only religious matters or history deemed important by them was recorded). Despite my understanding of the need for the passage I found it alienating. This is partly because I’ve been reading things like The Hunger Games trilogy where present tense first person narration makes me feel like I am experiencing the action first hand. To be made aware that the action is long over takes away an urgency, and to point out he does not have direct knowledge of much of it makes me long for Will’s story in his own words.
I’m enjoying the book but not devouring it as I have been plunging into some YA recently. I think this is because there is a lot more exposition than action and while I see that William Wallace is going to be an intreagueing Robin Hood figure (Whyte indicated he has reason to believe Robin Hood legends are based on Wallace) it is taking much longer to get into the Robin Hood days, or for Jamie to really be aware of what his cousin is living like.
More on this book soon