7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 2012
I found that Warlord followed the trend in Angus' series in that THERE IS NO TREND. Honestly, one thing you can really count on with the Outlaw books is that any new title will have a new story, a fresh angle and a different feel and theme to it. There is nothing formulaic or repetitive about the series in any way.
Outlaw was a tale of survival and redemption with Alan Dale and the infamous Robert Odo of Locksley, better known as Robin Hood. The story took us in a new and interesting way around familiar old legends, with a fresh and brutal interpretation of Robin that is nothing like the man in green of classic TV.
The second book, Holy Warrior, took us to Outremer and the world of the crusaders, with a now-legitimate Robin. The mood was darker and more soul-searching and, to be quite honest, left me feeling angry at Robin and, to a lesser extent, Alan. This was, for me, the `Empire Strikes Back' of the Outlaw series.
Thirdly, King's Man was the tale of King Richard's imprisonment in Germany and Alan and Robin's part in his return to power. It was also the tale of Prince John's rise and then fall. It was a story of intrigue and espionage and to that point the best in the series, I would say.
And so, to Warlord. Once again, Angus has taken us in a new direction. Alan and Robin move with the action to Normandy, this time, to Richard's brutal and protracted war with Phillip of France. There are three very distinct threads of action in this tale, though not consecutive or in order, but the tale is an amalgam of the three, bound together like a celtic knot.
Firstly, Alan Dale is beginning to delve into the secrets that surrounded his father's expulsion from Notre Dame in Paris and his subsequent death upon the order of a mysterious and powerful figure. This story involves murder, conspiracy, penetration deep into the heart of the enemy in Paris, and the investigation of some of the most powerful men in the world. This is as good a mystery tale in itself that it could fill a novel on its own and stand up to the best histfic murder mysteries out there
Secondly, there is the war itself, which is told in vivid description, with all the heroic scenes expected of Coeur de Lion's somewhat rash valour and excitable nature. But it is also brutal and unpleasant, giving us details about the world of medieval warfare that goes beyond the simply `what happened and who won?' style of history and explores the effects on the ordinary soldiers and the people caught in the middle of a war between their masters.
Thirdly, there is the tale of Alan's growth and love and his manor at Westbury, the depredations of his land under the vicious Hag of Hallamshire, the growing relationships with Goody and his men, including young Thomas, the squire, who is now almost the Alan we remember from the first book.
So that's a rundown of what Warlord is about, missing out too many spoilers. "But", I hear you say, "what's it like?"
Warlord is simply excellent. It brought to mind elements of a number of my favourite things, including some of the feel of the Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars video game (that may sound a strange comparison, but it remains one of the best-written and most evocative plots I have ever found and if you haven't played that game, buy it straight after Warlord), the siege scenes in medieval movies like Jeanne d'Arc (an average film to my mind, but an excellent siege scene), visits I have made to some of the book's locations in my youth (the Chateau Gaillard I found particularly breath-taking), the great tales I read as a boy of Richard the Lion Heart and his wars, and even a touch of the Arthurian legends, mixed with Christian myth and more. See how much the book makes me think of other very cool things?
Old villains that survived the previous books are just as vile and loathsome as ever, but are somewhat cast into the shadows by the arrival of new and all-the-more twisted and maniacal antagonists. Old friends are back in their full glory, and with them others who were previously minor and now begin to come to the fore. The last fight in the book is some of Donald's best work and had me almost twitching and leaning left and right with the swings as I read (like when you watch a rollercoaster on TV). It was, for me, on a par with the most excellent duel scene in King's Man, about which I have previously raved.
As with the previous books, and increasing with each new release, one of my fave characters is King Richard himself. I suspect that the amount of research Angus has done on this famous king is deeper and more involved than anything else he has undertaken in his work, and it shows. Angus' portrayal of Coeur de Lion is magnificent, and easily the best I've come across either on paper or screen. That alone makes Warlord an outstanding book.
So the upshot is that Warlord is another winner from the author of Outlaw. If you like his books, you'll buy this one, I'm sure, and if you've not read any, then you need to buy them all and start from the beginning.
Oh... and Warlord throws us some tremendous teasers for what to expect in book 5. It makes me hunger for the next release
As always, Mister Donald.... Bravo!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Angus Donald is responsible for reigniting my interest in medieval history - in the late 12th century no less, the time of Richard the Lionheart, Crusade, castles, chivalry, knights and outlaws. Especially one outlaw: Robin Hood. You may be forgiven for thinking that there is nothing new or original to say about this most infamous and familiar of rogues but how Angus Donald continues to prove this wrong, novel after novel after novel. Warlord is the fourth in the Outlaw Chronicles, a series that takes us into the heart of the world of Robin, Earl of Locksley, via one of his most loyal and brave knights, Alan Dale. Both poet and warrior, Alan is our witness and Warlord continues his account of these years of war and cruelty and short lives, fighting for King Richard in the retinue of Robin while trying to scrape together the seeds of a future peaceful life.
I would strongly recommend that you read the first three Outlaw novels first: Outlaw, Holy Warrior and King's Man. If you haven't read them yet, then do be aware that this review contains spoilers for what came before - previous events have had consequences.
Previous novels have taken us on Crusade, into Germany and Austria to rescue the hostage King Richard, and we have witnessed horrors nearer to home, not least the vividly memorable account in King's Man of the slaughter of York's Jews. Warlord focuses on the five years after Richard's liberation when he and his men have to put his realm back together again, reclaiming lands lost by Prince John and other nobles and going to war against the traitorous French king Philip. War's one way to describe it but actually it's more a series of sieges and skirmishes followed by treaties, all inevitably broken.
Alongside this sequence of terrifying and bloody exchanges, we have Alan's struggle to come to terms with himself as a killer, as a future husband of his beloved Goody and as a lord in his own right. He is responsible for his own men, several of whom are men we are grown attached to, and he also has to pay the price for any wrong doing done to the most tragic of characters in the whole series, Nur. As Alan grows older and contemplates starting a family of his own, he is increasingly haunted by the fate of his father. Who is `the man you cannot refuse', the man who is responsible for his father's death at the end of a rope? Is it someone distant or someone much closer?
Warlord, very originally, looks at the impact of post traumatic stress on these medieval warriors. The things they witness and do are horrific. We are barely spared as readers. Angus Donald also shows the affect of such prolonged and back and forth conflict on the daily existence of ordinary people and on families. As we'd expect from this wonderful series, the characters are all richly rounded and fully explored. There is much, much more to the novels than battle, exciting as these scenes are.
Warlord introduces the extra element of a medieval mystery, a matter that stirred knights for generations. It adds another dimension to the novel, rooting it in the courtly mythology of the day.
King's Man (The Outlaw Chronicles), the most recent of the Outlaw Chronicles, is a superb book and a tough act to follow, let alone beat. Nevertheless, Warlord manages it. The final two thirds in particular are compelling. From the moment that Alan arrives in Paris on his quest, the pages rip through the fingers. Brilliantly created by Angus Donald, Alan has grown into himself through the novels and in Warlord we are given a thoroughly convincing and mesmerising portrait of a medieval knight, complete with flaws but outstanding in his qualities. I am so relieved that there is more to come. This review is from a review copy.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 2014
If you hunger for bigger battles after the seige of Nottingham Castle and the battles in the Holy Land from previous books Warlord provides what it says on the tin - WAR over quite a good number of years including the odd seige of a castle or two or maybe three.
This book shifts its focus ever so slightly from Alan's adventures with Robin (although he hasn't completely taken a back seat in this tale) to Alan's adventures as a loyal and supportive Knight under the leadership of none other than Richard the Lion Heart himself. And yets as an extra bonus Alan has a family murder mystery to solve inspired from his last meeting with the now at long last dead Sir Murdac AND the psychotic and disfigured Nur is still haunting the lands around Westbury. So as you can see there is A HECK OF A LOT for Alan to deal with besides just surviving one battle around Normandy from the next.
There isn't ever a slow period, a peaceful season or a respite for Alan as he has challenges both personal and private to deal with whether he's at home with the ever reliable Goody or abroad amongst his fellow Knights.
This book is quite an eye opener mixed in with a history lesson for most people probably know the Lion Heart best for his failed campaigns into the Holy Land. But what Angus Donald reveals in this telling is a glimpse into what the Lionheart did next as he began years of sieges and battles to reclaim his lands lost to King Philip of France. A campaign I dare say he proved more successful that is until....well I won't spoil it.
However I will say that woven within the latter half of this epic tale is a secret that could change a lot of lives for better or for worse if discovered and claimed by Robin and his men - and that dear reader is where Angus Donald cunningly leads you into the next book in the series.
Over all a roller coaster of a read - each chapter grips you by the collar and drags you through Alan's many trials and tribulations and will leave you gasping for breath at the end but also craving more. A superb piece of historical fiction written with a human heart, soul and mind at the centre of it all that gives this story such power over the reader that they are gripped even when there isn't a sword clashing with a shield or an arrow being fired from a castle keep.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
This is volume 4 of the Outlaw series (after Outlaw, Holly Warrior and King's Man). It is focused on the five last years of the reign of Richard Lion Heart (from 1194 to 1199), after his release from captivity, and his constant struggle against Phillip II, the King of France. Again, we find Robin Earl of Locksley, and his men (including Little John and his fearsome battle axe) and Alan Dalle, the warrior trouvère whom Angus Donald has equated with Blondel. As another reviewer mentioned, it might be preferable to read the books one after the other, although this is not absolutely necessary to enjoy this one.
The first thing I particularly liked about this volume was the topic. As Angus Donald mentions in his historical note, there are many books on King Richard but few that concentrate on his last years. This one does, and, as usual, the author manages to tell a superb, exciting and very historically accurate story. Although on paper King Richard I was much more powerful than his liege lord King Philip, the latter was a cunning diplomat who kept detaching Richard's vassals from him and encouraging them to rebel against the King of England throughout Aquitaine, Touraine, Anjou and Normandy, just like his father (King Louis VII) and grand-father (King Louis VI) had done in their time against previous Kings of England and Dukes of Normand. The author, who acknowledges drawing heavily from John Guillingham's magisterial Richard I, clearly shows how Richard put up a spirited defense and struggled for 5 years to reconquer, one by one, almost all of the castles and fortresses that had been lost during his captivity. It also shows him as the charismatic, energetic and skillful warlord that he was. Even what appear at first glance to be his acts of reckless bravery seem to have been mostly calculated risks, including those taken to win his victorious battle at Gisors.
There is much more to the book than this. The second excellent point is that it shows what medieval warfare was really like, with all its horrors, pillaging and massacres. It also shows war generally opposing relatively small armies - a few hundred or a few thousand on each side - with each trying to subdue and conquer the others castles and fortified towns through sieges and doing their best to avoid pitched battles where everything could be lost all of a sudden. These were wars of sieges, skirmishes and ambushes and rapid movement. The importance of siege warfare, and of capturing enemy castles quickly before they could be rescued, is very well illustrated in the book and the descriptions related to Château Gaillard are accurate. I particularly liked the two assaults on Verneuil and Milly and the hand-to-hand fighting on the walls. They were also wars that could only be sustained for a short periods so that they were many temporary truces. All of this is very well shown in the book, including the effects of war on the men (with one of our heroes being subject to what is now called post traumatic disorder) and the kind of behaviors that professional warriors such as the routiers (mercenaries) of Mercadier (who really existed and really served faithfully Richard until his death).
However, this volume is not only about warfare. More generally, it paints the picture of daily life and of the feudal world at the end of the 12th century whether in Alan Dale's manor or in Paris which was under major construction at the time, as indicated in the book (but I will not mention anything more to avoid spoilers). We also learn much more about Alan Dale's father, and why he was murdered, so there is a bit of a detective story's flavor added to it at times and even the Holy Grail comes into it.
Readers should also be aware that the portrays of the two Angevin brothers are largely (although not entirely) the traditional ones: Richard Lion heart "the hero" and John "Lackland" "the villain". Despite this, Richard, at least, was not caricatured: some of his less savoury sides are also shown. As for John, he has been so reviled that it has always been very difficult to come up with a case in his favor, although some have tried. I have two final little quibbles, perhaps, but certainly not enough for this book to be anything else than five stars.
- First, a "slip of the pen": contrary to what is mentioned, neither of Richard's grand-fathers (Geoffroy, Count of Anjou and William, Duke of Aquitaine) ) was Duke of Normandy, although his father (King Henry II and his great grand-father (Henry I Beauclerc, the last of William the Conqueror's sons) were
- Second, Aliénor of Aquitaine was not present when Richard, her favorite son, died of his wound at Châlus.
Also, for those interested in further reading in some of the topics covered in this book, I can recommend the following titles, in addition to the John Guillingham's book mentioned above:
- John France's Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades (1000-1300)
- Blood Cries Afar: 1216 by Sean McGlynn, which, despite its title, covers the last years of Richard's reign and the whole of John's reign.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I've been a fan of Angus' work since he burst on the scene a few years ago with the first title in the series. Its refreshing, it brings Robin Hood to life for the reader and also provides the reader with a story that they can place historically as well as taking them on a no holds barred adventure.
Whilst this is a cracking thing in itself, when you add a lead character that is multifaceted that you want to spend time around alongside a solid supporting cast and all in you really can't ask for more. Personally, this is a series that I've loved sharing with my Dad and when my nephews are a little older, they'll be getting the full treatment as well. For me, this is a great series to introduce your young reader to help the cross over into adult Historical Fiction.
Finally back that up with solid prose, a great plot line as well as some wonderful twists and all in, I was in HF heaven for a good few hours. Angus really does get better with each title.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 August 2012
This latest outing of the Outlaw Chronicles (if you have not read the other three,then you are in for a treat)has Robert Odo,Earl of Locksly-the former outlaw Robin Hood and Alan Dale,Robin`s protege,musician and warrior of great renown are with their King, Richard the Lionheart as he wages war in Normandy.Once again Angus Donald uses his passion and in-depth research to bring to life the depths of Sherwood,the Castles of Aquitaine,the stinking dungeons of medieval Paris and into the thick of battle at Gisors.We have it all,heroes,villains,great fights and blood and death.On top of all that, we also have a mystery to solve,just who is "man you cannot refuse" and what has he to do with the death of Alan`s farther and more to the point what has both of them to do with the hunt for the Grail? To find out, buy the book and i am sure you not be disappointed.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 August 2012
Having read all the previous books in this series i'm still amazed how Angus Donald keeps up the pace.You feel as if you are living in the time of Richard the lionheart,the smells,the sights, the sounds,and don't forget,the battles all come rushing off the pages.Through the fictional hero and his chums the history of the time comes alive in all it's violent and colourful glory.This time we are transported to Normandy,Paris and beyond,castle sieges,murder,and intrigue abound as the now maturing Alan Dale fights for king,liege lord Robin,and family honour.In a nutshell its great,keep it up Angus.
on 10 August 2013
I had difficultly assessing this book.
In the end, I decided it was a "like", but it was close.
This is the third in the series, and I have not read the previous ones, so am not sure if it is typical or not.
Its an expansion and continuation of the story of Robin Hood ( now the Earl of Locksley ), and by this book, it is his loyal lieutenant Sir Alan Dale relating a latter-day part of his time serving with Robin and with King Richard I ( The Lionheart ) during the Anglo-French wars in the 1190s.
The good parts are the fine description of landscape and action, plus the fairly decent characterisation of all the major protagonists, as well as the plot in general.
The mixed parts, for me include the writing style. Generally, it is straightforward and easy, but I have never come across a book in which so many sentences start with "And ". Occasionally used, it can be a powerful addition to a style, but in this book it seems to occur on almost every page, and when it does, it never seems to be lonely, as if it needs a few "And"s around to help it out.
As you can tell, it irritated me a lot !
Another point was the use of the hackneyed phrase " the man you cannot refuse" when referring to Alan's father's murderer. There must be better ways to say this, or to vary the writing of it, or even to mention it less often !
The other irritation for me ( again, a personal thing ) was the introduction of the Grail legend. This book did not need it at all, its plot would have survived very happily without it, but it seems the author has been wanting to include this for some time, and has finally managed it. Perhaps its the overuse of the Grail in the Da Vinci books and its ilk in recent years that puts me off, but it really wasn't needed here. Now, of course, it leads into his next book where it seems the Grail will take centre stage !
There was also quite a long passage where Alan was at his home. This may have been a required part of the plot ( perhaps around the issues with his marriage ) but it really dragged for me, and could have been shelved or condensed. It added little as far as I could see, and seemed a poor device to use as a waiting move until the main plot moved forward.
Overall, I would say that this was an acceptable book, but has quite a few drawbacks in my eyes. I may look at an earlier book, but I'm fairly sure I'll leave the next book " Grail Knight" to its own devices !
on 10 August 2013
As this is the fourth book in this most excellent tale of Robin Hood, I sort of knew what to expect and was not disappointed. This chapter revolves around King Richard's attempt to drive King Phillip of France out of Normandy but there are plenty of other side stories and subplots as well. Alan Dale is once again the narrator and in this tale is also one of the main characters as he struggles to find the real reason his father was killed and who the responsible party was. Along with that he is also dealing with a curse levied at him and his bride to be.
The author has produced a magnificent tangle of twists and turns while also continuing his deepening of Alan's character. Alan suffers much agony and pain, physically, emotionally and spiritually during the many and varied adventures he takes part in during the course of this tale not the least of which is his concern about his own guilt in the deaths of so many he encounters in his quest for the truth. This is where the author shines in my view as he brings that pain and agony to the reader almost as if it leaps off the page as you read the words.
One of the big events, one that will carry over to the next book in the series is the introduction of The Holy Grail. This most revered relic of Christianity plays an important part in Alan's quest and serves as a catalyst for Robin to pursue this relic and possess it. Thankfully the sequel, Grail Knight, is already available so I won't have to wait too long to continue the pursuit. I heartily rate this volume at 4.7.
on 28 October 2012
Warlord, the fourth book in The Outlaw Chronicles by Angus Donald is the longest and most detached from the Robin Hood story. Donald has focussed far more on historical accuracy in his latest novel - the last five years of Richard's I reign (1194-1199) with some brilliant depections of battles in Verneil, Vendome, Milly and The Battle of Gisors. It is the overall plot of the -book and, as Donald mentions in his personal note, is something that not many authors document when writing about Richard.
However, it is not all about The Lionheart. The battles are sandwiched with Alan Dale's personal quest to find the reason and culprit behind the orders given to hang his late father Henri. In searching for the questions to his answers, he meets several people who have met and encountered his father at points in his life. They all provide Alan with ample knowlegde, but are mysteriously killed off, just when Alan had arranged to meet them again to discuss the matter further. Alan soon finds that the answers lie deep within Paris, which becomes a whirlwind affair including: some terrific skirmishes and fist fights and beautifully described passages of Paris - you get the sense of the buzz that there was at the time. Whilst being in Paris Alan unmasks the man behind his father's death - "the man you cannot refuse" - which brings its own consequences.
Along side to Alan's personal plot thread, there is two further sub plots: the first is focussed with the "man you cannot refuse" who possesses a "wonderous object". The second is Nur. On Alan's first return to England, she is still terrorising Alan's bride to be Goody and the people of Alan's estate of Westbury. She seems to put a sort of curse on their love, and this plagues Alan, who also suffers from a medieval post traumatic stress. Alan is almost forced to return to War, to France and despite not yet marrying his love it sort of cures him.
Swiftly the reader is drafted into battles. First comes the attack of Milly, followed by Richards conquests of the castles surrounding Gisors with the help of William The Marshal, The Flemish and his scarred mercenary Mercerdier - who hates Alan. Donald then plays around with his artistic license: after truces and agreeements between Richard and Philip, it is Robin who comes across information that a certain French noble and the "man you cannot refuse" with his object are further south of the country, housed in Castle Chalus. After being told about it The King and his Knights agree to attack this noble for his rebellious ways, whilst Alan and Robin seek the object within the battle.
As with all of The Angus Donald novels, I am always impressed how staggeringly real he makes the description and plot feel, and this is perhaps down to the fact that he chose to write in the first person, which gives a characters voice - like a friend is talking to you, making it far more believeable - rather than an authors view, which is often third person and makes their description cut off from reality - almost disjointed. Thankfully this is not the case with Outlaw, Holy Warrior, King's Man or Warlord - they actually feel as if a man called Alan Dale existed and you are in fact reading an autobiography.
All in all a thoroughlingly good read, with electric page accompanied with brilliant descriptions of warfare and landscape included within a exciting and enthralling plot. Highly recommended if you've ever been a fan of Robin Hood and/or medieval history. Warlord does not disappoint (like Costner).