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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 July 2012
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.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 July 2012
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.
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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!
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on 4 March 2016
The series keeps getting stronger. Its hard not to offer spoilers in a review of the fourth book in a series. but this tale of robin hood is much more believable and detailed than the romanticized stuff normally associated with the character.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 July 2012
Review

When i first started this series it was with a touch of eagerness, and a fair bit of trepidation. Robin Hood has always been a personal favourite of mine (i do share the name after all). I have read quite a few failed attempts at writing this great character, and seen some blooming awful films.

By the end of that 1st book i was amazed by the astounding piece of work that Angus had produced, so new and so fresh and so real.

The wait for books 2 (Holy Warrior) and 3 Kings Man was eternal for some one who loves Historical fiction, and I'm sure he didn't mind the hundreds of reminders to get the heck on with it.

So how did book 4 Warlord match up to its predecessors?

Its better, every book has got better than the last, yet this one takes a large leap froward in excellence. The writing and the plot as ever is realistic, dark, violent, dirty, visceral so many words. Its like opening a portal on the past and a more realistic past that the fanciful and simple rob the rich to feed the poor. As usual Sir Alan Dale is the true star of the show, for any book you need to be able to relate to some degree with a character and Robin is just too much of a git to truly do that. A charismatic git a dramatic git a medieval Don Corleone of a loveable git. But Alan is the true multi-dimensional character the one you can see yourself in.

Earlier this year i said Christian Cameron's God of War would be my book of the year for 2012. This book damn near proved me wrong. I do now have 2 books of the year, because i really cannot separate them. The Outlaw Chronicles is fast becoming one of my all time favourite series.

VERY Highly recommended.

(Parm)

Book Description

May 1194. Finally released from captivity, Richard the Lionheart is in Normandy engaged in a bloody war to drive the French out of his continental patrimony. Using the brutal tactics of medieval warfare - siege, savagery and scorched earth - the Lionheart is gradually pushing back the forces of King Philip of France. By his side in this epic struggle are Robert, Earl of Locksley, better known as the erstwhile outlaw Robin Hood, and Sir Alan Dale, his loyal friend, and a musician and warrior of great skill and renown.

But while the battles rage and the bodies pile up, Robin seems only to be interested in making a profit from the devastation of war, while Alan is preoccupied with discovering the identity the man who ordered his father's death ten years earlier - and the mystery is leading him towards to Paris, deep in the heart of the enemy's territory ...
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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.
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on 24 February 2016
Brilliant brilliant and brilliant I've not enjoyed a series of books like I've enjoyed this series so far. Can't even put in words just how great I find these books. Just read them and you will know what I mean.
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This is the fourth in the excellent "Outlaw" series, the story of Robin Hood and Richard the Lionheart through the eyes of Alan Dale. The focus in this one is mainly King Richard's campaign in France against King Philip and the author blends the historical fact of Richard's campaign with the fiction of Robin Hood and his men supporting the campaign. Oh, and for additional fun the Holy Grail is chucked in.

Angus Donald sets up Alan Dale as the nice guy conflicted by his affection and support for Robin and Richard and the dark places that takes him. Robin is a key but peripheral character (as is Richard) in this story, where we see Alan following up the mystery of his father's death and his father's youth. Alan himself is keen, slightly naïve and quite young, but this is a good contrast to those with hidden agendas and a darker side. And this must include Robin Hood, again brilliantly portrayed as multi-layered and with a distinct dark side.

King Richard's campaign in 1194 (ish) was very much that of mediaeval tradition, that of siege and destruction, ransom and an odd blend of nobility and savagery. The author does an excellent job of blending a bit of history with the fictional activities of his characters. As with the previous books this is well written, well researched and very well delivered. I think the whole series has been a brilliant take on the `Robin Hood' era, and making Hood a peripheral and dark character was a stroke of genius.
Historical fun and action at it's best.
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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.
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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.
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