King's Man (Outlaw Chronicles) Paperback – 5 Jul 2012
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Angus Donald leads you into the familiar forests of Medieval England...and then all hell breaks loose! Far from the figure of popular legend, Donald's Robin Hood is a brutal, cunning warlord who will let nothing stand in his way. A fresh, lively and welcome take on one of the world's most famous outlaws. And yet, it stirred in me a nostalgia for all the great stories of my childhood; those that thrilled me, inspired me and shaped who I am today. Complex heroes, craven villains, brutal fights...King's Man is a boy's own romp that flies like an arrow from a yew bow (Giles Kristian)
Excellent, well researched and full of detail. Started it a few weeks ago, and have been gripped by it since. Quite simply, it's a great read. (Ben Kane)
Twists, turns, blood and death, ambush and escape is all revealed against a meticulously-researched backdrop. A stunning portrayal of the dark side of the Robin Hood legend, THIS is the outlaw Russell Crowe should have played. (Robert Low)
A glorious, gritty, violent, fast-moving recreation of an English legend (The Times)
From the internationally bestselling author of Outlaw and Holy Warrior comes the most exciting historical novel of the yearSee all Product description
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When the first book ended, given the situation (which I shall not reveal for fear of spoilers), I did wonder how Angus was going to be able to produce a sequel. This tale, still told from the point of view of Alan Dale, with Robin as an objective character rather than the lead, surprised me in a number of ways.
Firstly, the characters have changed subtly due to their experiences. The Alan we see in Holy Warrior is a different man to the boy in Outlaw, more confident, stronger, a little more embittered and thoughtful. Robin also had changed, burdened by so many more cares and difficulties than once beset him. The introduction of a number of strong new characters also injects fresh life into the tale.
Secondly, the story is set to the background of the Third Crusade. This event is one of the few parts of medieval history I'm fairly familiar with and I wondered just how it was going to surprise and entertain me, given my foreknowledge. The answer is: perfectly. The story is not hinged upon the crusade, though the holy war is clearly a large part. It is more a story of struggle, revenge, personal growth and change, orienting specifically mostly around Robin, Alan, their Jewish friends and a new vicious enemy who I shall not name yet. Amazingly to me, there is one event in the 3rd crusade that I consider the most amazing and fascinating and in an unexpected move, this event almost goes unnoticed due to the absence of the narrator. Such wonderful 'curve-balls' are what kept me guessing.
Thirdly, as a historian living near York, I was impressed with Angus' handling of late 12th century York and the events that took place there. These events I know well and yet they were made to fit seamlessly into the tale without a hiccup, as though they had always been linked.
Essentially, while there is so much more I could say, I will simply say bravo, Angus, and I look forward to reading King's Man, which sits watching me expectantly from the bookcase.
It is not very often that a good book has equally good sequel volumes but happily that can be said for Angus Donald's Outlaw Chronicles. Both Holy Warrior and King's Man are actually better than the first book of the series.
I have been a avid collector of anything to do with Robin Hood since boyhood in the 1950s particularly books and films and have purchased and read every novel that I have come across with a connection to the legendary English hero. Mr. Donald has not just revisited the traditional Robin Hood stories has built a new very carefully crafted tale which is firmly rooted in historical reality, the story of what a real outlaw hero might have been like as seen from the perspective of his companion Alan a'Dale. This Robin is far from the Hollywood image of a whiter than white fighter for Saxon rights, he is a flawed character, sometimes less than likeable, always mercenary, and totally untrustworthy but is painted as a real person that fits well into his era.
The book is packed with action, well written battles and a plot that snakes around to encompass the key historical actions that made up the turbulent reign of Richard I and John Lackland.
The first three novels of this series have made excellent absorbing and entertaining reading, I have yet to delve into the newest volume but look forward to that experience.
The first element that makes this book stand apart from others is the accuracy and excellence of the research that underpins it. This is true for the Crusade itself and its major feats, in particular the capture of Cyprus and the siege of Saint Jean d'Acre. It is also true for much less well known events, such as the pogrom against the Jews of York in 1190 which seems to be a reminder of the similar persecutions that some of the members of the First Crusade inflicted on the Jews of the Rhineland. Another great piece was the commerce of frankincense and the fortunes that could be made from it. In particular, Angus Donald's historical note is a great one: short and to the point when explaining what he has done and which liberties he has taken with the historical record and which sources he followed (John Guillingham's masterpiece on Richard I Lionheart, in particular). In particular, and unlike some other authors, he explains exactly what he has done (without leaving anything out) but feels no need to justify his choices.
As usual, the battle and fighting scenes are great. The battle of Arsuf is particularly good and the story Angus Donald tells is perfectly accurate. Although presented as a victory, it was, at best, only a tactical one and it nearly ended in disaster. The book also shows rather well why Richard did not try to march on Jerusalem and try to recapture it: assuming he would have succeeded, he did not have the means to hold the city. One little quibble, perhaps, is about the total number that Donald attributes to Richard's army at Arsuf - some 20000 - which seems to be rather on the high side unless he is also counting all non-combatants and camp followers, or at least those that had survived the frightful siege of Acre. The relations between Richard and Philippe, the King of France, seem indeed to have as bad as shown in the book, with Richard taking advantage of any opportunities to show off his superiority and contempt with regards other leaders including Philippe, who happened to be his liege lord but not half the warrior that Richard was, but also the archduke of Austria, whose flag Richard did kick off the towers of Acre and replace by his one. Needless to say, his behavior did not endear him to the other leaders.
As for the story and the fictitious characters, Robin, Earl of Locksley is his usual self: loyal to his liege lord (Richard) and to his followers for whom he is ready to risk all, but cruel, pitiless and ruthless with regards to anyone else and not a man to miss an occasion to enrich himself, by fair mean or foul. Alan Dale is also his usual self and torn between his loyalty and love for Robin and his dismay and disgust of some of his lord's behaviors and actions. Added to this is an interesting subplot with someone trying to assassinate Robin during the "Great Pilgrimage" (the Crusade) and Alan Dale's feud with "Mâlebête", a traitorous knight who is the real "archvillain" in this episode.
For those wanting to learn more about Crusade warfare, the best and most accessible reference is Crusading Warfare 1097-1193 by R.C. Smail, despite its age. This superbly entertaining read, which I have just re-read for the second time, is definitely worth five stars.