Outlaw by Angus Donald
|Outlaw by Angus Donald|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Loralei Haylock|
|Summary: A near perfect book. Gory, exciting, and an insightful interpretation of the Robin Hood mythology.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: July 2009|
When Alan Dale is caught stealing from a market stall in Nottingham he narrowly escapes with his life and limbs in tact. To protect him from the justice of Sir Ralph Murdac, Alan's mother begs the mercy of the great outlaw, Robin Hood. Robin agrees to take Alan into his protection, and so begins Alan's life as an outlaw.
While very excited by this turn of events, Alan soon finds out that outlaws are a rather different sort of men. Bound by camaraderie, honour, and fear, Robin's men can offer him protection, an education and training in the ways of war. But cross them and harsh punishments are dealt, as Alan quickly learns. Robin may be Alan's protector, but he could just as easily be his murderer. Alan has to keep out of trouble, but that isn't easy for the cut-purse…
It seems to be a bit fashionable at the moment to retell ancient legends with a strictly historical spin. I've read, or watched, a fair few that give King Arthur the treatment, always feeling slightly dubious about the 'magic' being taken out. But Robin Hood has never really been all that magical. His prowess with a bow may be slightly supernatural, but it's not wizards and swords that can't be removed from stones. So what's different about this book, is it worth reading? A resounding yes.
Donald's spin on the legend of Robin Hood is a far cry from the Disney version. This isn't a Robin who steals from the rich and gives to the poor – he tithes the poor in return for his protection, a 12th Century Mafia Don. He's angry, and his justice is harsh – every bit the frightening outlaw.
Outlaw is a very bold book – from the sticker on the front that declares it 'as good as Bernard Cornwell or your money back' (personally, I've never read any Bernard Cornwell, but from his Amazon reviews I can see this is quite something to live up to) and the dramatic 'Meet the Godfather of Sherwood Forest' by-line, to the unflinching description of the gore of battle. It's like the whole book, from its appearance to its prose, is an exercise in capturing the spirit of Robin Hood as Donald perceived him – angry, charismatic, clever and vengeful.
This book so nearly scored five stars, but I had to deduct a half. It's my pet hate to know plot details years before the characters figure it out, and Outlaw falls prey of this as Alan tries to figure out who is betraying Robin and his men. It could have been solved so easily by cutting out one scene – a scene that, in my mind, did nothing but tell us exactly who the traitor was with no other purpose. Which is a real shame, as it lessened the impact of the reveal at the end.
But, apart from this minor niggle, it's a near perfect book. Gory, exciting, and an insightful interpretation of the Robin Hood mythology. Highly recommended.
My thanks to the publishers for sending a copy.
Check out Bookbag's Top Ten Historical Fiction Books, and Top Ten Retellings of Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales for some great further reading.
You can read more book reviews or buy Outlaw by Angus Donald at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Outlaw by Angus Donald at Amazon.com.
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