- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 13 hours and 43 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Hachette Audio UK
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 27 Oct. 2011
- Language: English, English
- ASIN: B00607CDKW
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
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Outlaw Audiobook – Unabridged
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It is not very often that a debut novel is this good but happily that can be said for Angus Donald's Outlaw. Such a pity that this volume went straight to paperback was never issued in hardback edition in the UK
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.
That said, the story itself starts off in the midst of excitement and grabs your attention from the start. So, from that perspective I'm enjoying it.
Most reviewers, and in fact the subtitle of the book ("Meet the Godfather of Sherwood Forest") have insisted in his outlaw and robber side. However, the parallel with Marlon Brando or All Pacino's incarnations of the Godfather has its limits. This is largely because, unlike these modern criminals, Robin of Locksley was also fighting what was a kind of civil war against the supporters of John which is superbly illustrated by the battle of Linden Lea (towards the end of the book, of course, because this is the book's climax).
It is also because he was "outlawed", a Germanic legal concept that existed in Anglo-Saxon England, in the Danelaw (where the outlaw was called a "nithing" if I remember correctly) and in Normandy after 911. An outlaw in Anglo-Norman England was, quite literally, "out of the law", meaning that he had not protection to expect from the law, could be killed by anyone without any fear of punishment and anyone who helped him would be punished for it. In the Duchy of Normandy and the Kingdom of England, being outlawed implied confiscation of a lord's lands, who was therefore left destitute, and exile, if this lord or knight wanted to save his life. If he didn't chose exile and could not obtain pardon, then predatory banditry was the only other option to survive. This is what Angus Donald shows so well in this book.
Another point that Angus Donald makes very well is the connection between Robin Hood's behavior as a ruthless outlaw out for his own profit and his need to provide for his followers, by fair means or foul, ras any feudal lord was expected to at the time if he wanted to retain his followers and therefore his power and standing as a warlord. This connection, which will appear time and again in the next volumes as well, is also one of the strongest point s of the book in my view. To a large extent, these appear as the two faces of the same coin and this also makes the story that much more plausible.
Finally, the historical context is also very well portrayed, with the story in this first volume of five taking place in the last couple of years of the reign of the ageing Henry II, as his son Richard, Duke of Aquitaine, fights against him and side with the King of France, Philippe II (also known as "Augustus" thanks to the spin of his personal chronicler), while John, his last son, is also out for himself. The atmosphere of "fin de règne", uncertainty and increasing lawlessness that such a period must have seen is also very well rendered. Even the story telling, from the perspective of an aged Alan Dale, is interesting, if not original, in showing the mixed feelings that this version of Robin Hood could elicit from some of his followers, although these might also have had less than a "snow-white" background themselves (Alan Dale had to become a cut purse to survive after the hanging of his father).
Anyway, this is a superb start to a new series that I strongly recommend and also a five star read that I have just picked up, read again for the second time, and enjoyed even more than the first time.
The writing is merely adequate and the plot moves along quickly from scene to scene. Robin Hood is a much revered warlord of a sorts, and the narrator is very much in love with the man. But the book doesn't show exactly why, beyond that Robin has steely grey-blue eyes (depending on his mood, of course!) and is merciless and cruel, but also kind and generous. Cue fawning from the narrator.
Oh, and the female characters in the book are props for the men and nothing more.