Official Review: A King Ensnared by J. R. Tomlin

Please use this forum to discuss historical fiction books. Common definitions define historical fiction as novels written at least 25-50 years after the book's setting.
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Official Review: A King Ensnared by J. R. Tomlin

Post by greenstripedgiraffe » 14 Feb 2018, 09:28

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "A King Ensnared" by J. R. Tomlin.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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Personally, I enjoy history greatly; however, many writings about history are drier than dirt. When I picked up A King Ensnared by J. R. Tomlin, I was not sure how it would read. Naturally, I hoped for an exciting tale about King James of Scotland as well as a sound treatment of life in the 1400's; however I half expected it to be dull. To my delight, I found this novel to be all that I hoped for and more.

The author introduces you to a rather young Prince James on the first page. James is striving to catch a lizard to find out if indeed the tail will grow back if pulled off! From that moment, I was sucked into the story. Unfortunately for James, he never had the chance to solve the lizard tail mystery, as important men came to deliver news to the king of the death of his son, James' older brother. James is immediately whisked away, hopefully to safety, as his life is now in jeopardy. Through a series of events, James ends up a captive of King Henry of England. A King Ensnared is the story of James' life.

I give major kudos to the author for the masterful handling of the time period, including the political and economic climate and the major world players of the day. Events portrayed were largely accurate to historical records; the author made note of any deviations. One hindrance to overall understanding could have been the plethora of historical characters; however, all characters essential to the understanding of the perilous time were developed so well, one would almost think that the author had met them in person. Dangers to the life and person of James were well-explained.

It can be a temptation to view history as just a bunch of facts, names, dates, places... In reality, the people who lived in history are much like we are today, only born into different circumstances. Even with all the historical accuracy in place, the author managed to develop this book so well that it read more like an adventure and even a budding romance than a dusty history book required for a university social studies course. The pace was realistic. The story is told through the eyes of Prince James of Scotland, allowing a natural suspense to play out as James waited year after year, never knowing if he was going to be executed or allowed to live another day.

Not only is this tale about Prince James, but there is also insight into King Henry IV of England and his son, Henry Monmouth. Characters are not whitewashed, but are portrayed realistically, showing both strengths and weaknesses. Another interesting facet is the use of an old Gaelic dialect throughout by relevant characters. Personally, this did not bother me, as the context was always enough to decipher what was being said. Additionally, lest this be a hindrance to any, the author includes a glossary in the back.

In short, I cannot say enough good about this book. I knew next to nothing about the history of Great Britain during the 15th century. While I would not consider myself an expert after merely one book, I could say that my overall understanding of that time period has been greatly expanded. J. R. Tomlin made this era come alive! Thankfully, the editing is overall clean; I found only two errors. My only regret about the book is that it was not long enough! On one hand, it almost ended with a cliffhanger, but as the author made it clear that this book was to talk about only one period of James' life, the book did end at a natural point in history. The next period will be treated in the next book. The author is forgiven! I am pleased to assign 4 out of 4 stars to A King Ensnared. I do feel that I would not recommend this to young readers, due to the nature of the content (wars are bloody). However any mature reader should find this to be a delight.

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A King Ensnared
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Post by inaramid » 19 Feb 2018, 03:28

"In reality, the people who lived in history are much like we are today, only born into different circumstances."
Completely agree! This sounds like something that would make a good series over at the History Channel. I'm going to add this to my to-read list. Thanks for the recommendation!

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Post by Samy Lax » 19 Feb 2018, 03:37

That's a great review! To be honest, though I am a fan of history, I am always worried historical fiction could be dull for the most part. It's refreshing to learn about a book in the genre that is interesting and educational. Would love to read this one!
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Post by kandscreeley » 19 Feb 2018, 08:12

Ooh! I love a good historical fiction when it's done well. This sounds intriguing, and you have me already at James and the lizard's tail! Thanks so much for the great information.
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Post by Irene C » 19 Feb 2018, 13:04

Thanks for a great review. I'm a great fan of fiction about British history, but I had never heard of this author. It's great to learn of another good author.
Like fictional characters? Like guessing games?
Then you'll love the 20 Questions-Guess the Character game, found in the Off Topic forum! 8-)

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Post by CambaReviewer » 19 Feb 2018, 13:17

Thanks for this insightful review! I find historical fiction intriguing and you have piqued my interest with this very enthusiastic review. Awesome!

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Post by Melchi Asuma » 20 Feb 2018, 02:32

It is only after reading this review that I also realize that my overall knowledge of Europe's history is a little wanting. And if, indeed, this book teaches and entertains as you claim, then it is a very wonderful book. I might check it out? Also, great review.

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Post by greenstripedgiraffe » 20 Feb 2018, 08:48

Melchi Asuma wrote:
20 Feb 2018, 02:32
It is only after reading this review that I also realize that my overall knowledge of Europe's history is a little wanting. And if, indeed, this book teaches and entertains as you claim, then it is a very wonderful book. I might check it out? Also, great review.
It's fascinating. "Politics" certainly is not a new idea :D I hope you pick up the book sometime and read it! Thank you for your comments :)
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Post by Iamsofia » 20 Feb 2018, 17:33

Wow. I love history so much and the book sounds humorous. I'll love to read it. Great review, the review is awesome

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Post by Sahani Nimandra » 20 Feb 2018, 21:13

Since it is a periodical literature it is important to capture the data effective and present it to it's audience in a very effective manner. It is also important that the historical facts mentioned should be of true to its nature. Historical fiction reminds me of "Reign" a t.v. series about the life of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotts. After watching this I am very much into historical fiction. Anything to do with Kings and Queens is certainly a book for me. Thank you!
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Post by Roggyrus » 20 Feb 2018, 21:44

A King Ensnared is truly a story of the ordeals of one about to be king but withheld from that fate by circumstances. I understand the perils of royalties in line to ascension to the throne, the intrigues, the rivalry and the covert acts of supposed "kingmakers" and protectors on one hand, and the enemies and "other pretenders" on the other. This I got from reading numerous accounts of royal history. The path to the crown is really fraught with dangers, and sitting on the throne is like riding on a tiger, very hard to dismount. Thank you for your interesting review.

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Post by greenstripedgiraffe » 21 Feb 2018, 08:41

Iamsofia wrote:
20 Feb 2018, 17:33
Wow. I love history so much and the book sounds humorous. I'll love to read it. Great review, the review is awesome
Thank you for your kind comments! :oops:
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Post by RebeccasReading » 21 Feb 2018, 09:24

I love books about this era of history, but you are correct that many of them are "drier than dirt". I'm excited that this one is done well. It will definitely go on my list to read! Thanks for the review.

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Post by melissy370 » 21 Feb 2018, 19:17

Love the premise of this book. Thanks for the review.

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Post by Kat Berg » 25 Feb 2018, 22:50

I enjoyed your review very much! Your enthusiasm for the book and the quality of it made me want to read it, even though I am an indifferent reader of historical books. You started it out in a way that engaged me right from the beginning and I loved the way you ended: "The next period will be treated in the next book. The author is forgiven!" It rounded out the review very well. :) Thanks for the engaging review.

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