Friday, February 22, 2013

Book Review - Outlaw

Outlaw - Angus Donald

Robin Hood has always enthralled me. Whether it was Errol Flynn's swashbuckling hero, Costner's OTT warrior or even Disney's take on the myth,I have loved them all and seen them multiple times. Angus Donald's series has always been on my radar then but it wasn't until Jacqui started raving about the series that I really started to take note.

The blurb:

When he's caught stealing, young Alan Dale is forced to leave his family and go to live with a notorious band of outlaws in Sherwood Forest. Their leader is the infamous Robin Hood. A tough, bloodthirsty warrior, Robin is more feared than any man in the county. And he becomes a mentor for Alan; with his fellow outlaws, Robin teaches Alan how to fight - and how to win. But Robin is a ruthless man - and although he is Alan's protector, if Alan displeases him, he could also just as easily become his murderer...From bloody battles to riotous feast days to marauding packs of wolves, Outlaw is a gripping, action-packed historical thriller that delves deep into the fascinating legend of Robin Hood.

One of my all time favourite series is the Warlord trilogy by Bernard Cornwell. Bernard took a well known story and flipped most of the characters on their heads. It worked perfectly, and what was left was a fascinating story. Gemmell produced the same with his Troy trilogy and after reading the opening book in Donald's Hood series, it looks like I have stumbled upon another winner.

Like with Cornwell's series, the story is told from a lesser known character who has the privilege of observing the main characters and offering an insight on what they think of them. In this case Alan Dale takes on the role. Alan is every bit as likeable as Cornwell's Derfel. This is a good thing as it allows Robin Hood to be flawed and not always likeable, which offers fresh insight into the man whilst still keeping the readers interest with Alan's exploits.

Robin Hood then is a complex entity. Whilst his actions are sometimes vile, he is clearly a good man with the right intentions and exudes leadership.

Donald manages to include all the common characters and actions associated with Robin Hood. Little John, Friar Tuck and King Richard are all present. Marion is also there, although she is referred to as Marie-Anne. Little John and Robin met fighting with sticks but not fighting on a log as the other stories indicate, whilst King Richard is not yet the Monarch and the Friar does not always see eye to eye with Robin.

The subtle differences add to the tale rather than distract from it. As for the plot itself, it focuses on Alan Dale's childhood and introduction to the outlaws rather than reveal Robin's main plans. This too works well and immerses the reader into the setting nicely.

The climatic battle wraps up the plot nicely whilst logically paving the way for the second book.

As of right now, I am struggling to find any weaknesses with "Outlaw." I think that is the best way to end this review.

My Rating: 9.2

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