21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
In Outlaw, Angus Donald tells us the familiar Robin Hood story from a new angle - from the view of young Alan Dale. Alan is a teen who has led a rough life, stealing to keep his family fed. When Alan is caught and headed to prison, Robin agrees to adopt him into his gang.
The angle Angus takes here is that Robin was not a happy go lucky green tight wearing do-gooder who sang as he frolicked through the woods. Instead, Angus has Robin as "The Godfather of Sherwood Forest". The back cover talks about Robin as "bloodthirsty" and "ruthless".
The story is a little less wild than that. Robin Does fight with efficiency when attacked, but he is hardly cruel and nasty. Rather, he defends those he cares for and is frustrated with the callous disregard for life he sees in many nobles. He tenderly loves his Marie-Anne who he can occasionally visit with. He also has love for his brother, Hugh.
The story adds new twists to existing characters, and adds in others who don't figure in the traditional telling. If you think you know "the story", you need to read this with an open mind. There are changes to how things go. That's probably a good thing, so you actually have interest in how the story will end.
There is a nice level of detail in here - how the main halls are laid out, how tallow candles are used - without turning into a research tome on middle ages life.
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed. The outside of the book made it seem like this was going to be a dark take on the story. Really, it was just a normal, albeit realistic one. Battle is never clean and neat. Loyalties get mixed. Emotions can run high. It was certainly interesting to read about the characters from another point of view, but I'll give it four stars rather than five for the view being fairly similar to many others I've read.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2009
I received my copy of "Outlaw" by Angus Donald,as a friend's gift, from Amazon.I started reading it in the evening,and did not sleep a wink.That is testament to how good the read was! In the Bernard Cornwell manner,this author writes a riveting tale,and this is his first book! I say "Write on! Give us more!" And for those,who read this:Buy a copy;you will not be disappointed.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Angus Donald's Outlaw is his first novel in a new series about Robin Hood. In Donald's mind, Robin Hood is the head of a medieval Mafia. He offers villagers protection from the sheriff and dangerous criminals, in return for a fee. That's how Alan Dale ends up as one of Robin's men. He stole from a pie vendor and angered the Sheriff, so his mother asked Robin Hood to protect her son. Robin agreed and Alan never looked back. The story is told in a pretty typical flashback manner- the now old and lonely Alan Dale is writing his exploits as a young man on paper so the world will know the real Robin Hood.
I think I enjoyed this book more than I would have if I knew more Robin Hood yore. Maid Marian is here (Marie-Anne), as are Friar Tuck and Little John. I recognized these characters' names, but I don't know enough about them to know if Donald painted a traditional portrait of them or took more artistic license. The only depiction I saw as very different was that of Robin Hood himself- transformed from a man who stole from the rich to help support the poor to a man that took his share from everyone and was pretty ruthless about it.
But the biggest change in Robin Hood's character in this book is that he is a pagan. This was the hardest for me to deal with for many reasons. Mostly because paganism was probably (very, very, very probably) eradicated from Britain by this time. And also because Robin Hood is well known for going to fight in the Crusades, and it is highly unlikely that he would do this as a pagan. This incongruence is explained at the end of this book, to be fair, but it still rings untrue to me. I am sorry to say that this massive change in character made the book difficult for me because I see no historical reason to believe that Robin Hood would not have been Christian. Flouting the Church in the cavalier and careless manner he did, at a time when everyone lived in fear of God and the Church, just seems very unrealistic to me. I did manage to overcome this disbelief eventually, mainly because in my mind, I started setting this book several centuries before it actually takes place, more in the time period of King Arthur.
This story is about Alan Dale, though, not Robin Hood, and unfortunately Alan is not nearly as interesting as Robin. In fact, none of the other characters in this book is as interesting as Robin. They are all flat, whereas Robin has a lot of potential to become a multi-faceted and thoroughly engrossing character. I can't really think of one word that strongly describes Alan, whereas I can think of several that describe Robin.
That said, I enjoyed this book and look forward to learning more about this mafiosa-style Robin. I hope that the other characters get fleshed out more in the next books and take part in more of the action. I can't say that I'm on the edge of my seat wondering what will happen next, but it will be interesting to see how Robin acts in the next stage of his life- as an Englishman traveling far off on a holy crusade.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2009
A friend of mine gave me this book to read, and once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down! It is an intelligent, well written, action-packed piece of historical fiction that depicts a time when the church ruled the land, and the man most skilled with the blade could obtain nearly anything he wanted.
On the cover of this book there is a sticker that states "As good as Conn Iggulden or your money back." Well, I believe Angus Donald is BETTER than Conn Iggulden - this book is excellent.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Another version of the Robin Hood story, but this one is rather good.
This is the story from the perspective of Alan Dale where Robin Hood is no pure good guy, but a charismatic man that does what he needs to do to hold onto his Forest empire....and survive.
The style works well as we focus on Alan and the other famous characters feature on the periphery, very much Alan's story we share both his fear and admiration for Robin Hood. This perspective is interesting as you come to understand what Robin Hood meant to other people and in the context of an England in turmoil with absent Royalty and the time of the Crusades.
Quite violent and with some graphic sex, this is quite down to earth but with deft and interesting plotting that keep you turning the page. I recently read Lawhead's "Hood" and while I enjoyed that, I have to admit I thought this was better. This had slight touches of David Gemmell and Bernard Cornwall (which is a very good thing) and ends up being a very entertaining and welcome addition to the Robin Hood story, although hardly dark and cruel as described on the cover.
I felt the end was slightly abrupt, but then upon reading the author's notes, discovered this is the first in a planned series and I am already looking forward to the next one!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2013
After reading a slew of SFF novels, I was feeling in the mood for some historical fiction. Angus Donald's Outlaw had been on my to-read shelf for quite some time, so I decided to give it a shot. In reality, I wanted to get through it as fast as possible so as to move the second novel in The Outlaw Chronicles, Holy Warrior, up in my queue. Holy Warrior piqued my interest immediately in the blurb - Robin Hood, Richard the Lionheart, and the Third Crusade packed into one novel? What more could I want in a historical fiction novel? Anyway, I digress.
Alan Dale is the lowest of the low - essentially a street rat, forced to steal to make a living. Robin Hood, "holding court" in Alan's town of Nottingham. Alan's mother convinces Robin to take Alan under his wing, and so begins the story of Outlaw.
Many of Robin's Merry Men are present - Little John, Much, Will Scarlet, Tuck, and of course the man himself. In Outlaw, Robin is no man-in-tights do-gooder, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. He's a brutal, bloodthirsty bastard ready to kill at the drop of a pin. I haven't read many Robin Hood novels, and I find myself looking for darker, grittier novels to read, so the older children's novels were of little interest. Outlaw is a coming-of-age tale, with our protagonist Alan Dale being around 13 or 14 at the outset of the novel, but it is without question an adult novel. Graphic violence and sex are abundant, and some comedy also finds its way in, even in the darkest of times.
Speaking of graphic violence, the battle scenes are exceptionally done and often described in detail, as is a particular torture scene, which I'll not to discuss so as to keep this review spoiler-free. The environments, whether the scene is in summer or winter, are described in detail, but not at all in fluffy, boring detail - Donald did an excellent job painting each scene.
Historical accuracy is always a difficult subject to read for one so interested in history as I am. There were no qualms from me going in because, as anyone who has read even a bit about Robin Hood knows, he may not even have existed. The blend of fiction and history was what drew me to Outlaw and eventually the rest of the series was this blend, and Donald could not have done better, down to battle formations and the illness and subsequent death of Henry II, and many other examples.
Angus Donald's Outlaw was a fast-paced, gripping read in which I found myself reading most of it in one sitting, eager for more. If you're looking for a fresh new take on Robin Hood, look no further than Outlaw. It takes skill for a writer to tie up the story into a nice knot at the end and still leave readers begging for more, and luckily for me, The Outlaw Chronicles stand at 5 novels with a sixth on its way.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
As many other reviewers have mentioned, one of the main originalities of this book is the way that Angus Donald has chosen to portray Robin Hood: ruthless, cruel at times, unscrupulous and even callous, but also absolutely loyal to his liege lord and to his men, and expecting the same from them. This take is, of course, rather original, and tends to make the character of Robin very plausible, much more so than the traditional paragon of virtue and chivalry that is associated with him in so many other stories about him.
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2013
The best Robin Hood story out there. Angus Donald amalgamates folklore and fairytale with historical fact and real-life grit in this page-turner. The reader follows the story of Alan Dale as he narrowly avoids death and finds himself as part of Robin Hood's band of followers. But though many aspects of the tale are similar to the plot-points we already know, the author never fails to keep things interesting with twists and turns here and there and a complex Robin with a certain dark side, which I've never encountered before in any Robin Hood story.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2015
I have loved the legend of Robin Hood since I was 6. In this splendid historical thriller the author presents a new take on the famous outlaw-a cunning thief, a ruthless enemy who mutilates and executes informants and enemies
But he is not an evil man in my estimation, and does what he has to do to make sure he and his colony of outlaws survives and remains strong. He is loyal to his colony and his loved ones
Alan Dale is caught having stolen a pie and is likely to be tortured and hung. He escapes his fate and is accepted into Robin Hood's band.
He is sickened by Robin's torture of an informer but soon becomes toughened and is trained as both a warrior and a troubadour.
When the household and village he is training in is put to the torch and its inhabitants, men , women and children massacred, at the hands of the psychopathic Sheriff of Nottingham, Sir Ralph Murdac, he swears revenge.
Scenes of murder, torture and death in battle not for the feint hearted.Strongly raunchy sex scenes including Alan's loss of his virginity to a gorgeous young red headed prostitute.
Robin hood in this series is a pagan who hates the church He engages in pagan rights, that can be brutal (but no more so than the witch burnings and tortures by the church it needs to be said) His great love is for the noble woman Marie Ann
Great character development. Thrilling captures the sights , sounds and smells of 12th century England
Unforgettable characters include the Welsh rogue monk, Brother Tuck, the super strong hulking and fierce Little John, annd the erotic and skilled Irish pagan priestess Bridget
One of the best Robin Hood novels out there without a doubt.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Angus Donald's historical fiction "Outlaw" is an exciting middle-age tale set in the forests of England. Knights in gleaming armor battle on horseback, while beautiful ladies await the return of their loves in a countryside of castles and manors.
At the center of the story sits the legendary Robin Hood. But Donald's Hood is not the singing cartoon Hood of Disney, nor the 90's Robin of Kevin Costner. This Robin Hood has gone hardcore and there's more than a little bit of Godfather in him. Oh, he still lives in Sherwood and takes from the rich and gives to the poor, but he does so with a much bloodier dose of fear.
This Robin Hood also has a solid understanding of the fundamentals of public relations and propaganda. It's known wide and far that if you cross Robin once you're part of his merry band, you can expect a very bloody and tortuous end.
Though "General" Hood sits as the centerpiece of this tights & bows adventure, the real star is Alan Dale who narrates the story as an old man - a grandfather - pondering and reflecting on his life as an Outlaw.
Alan's voice is written earnestly and with heart. You ache and relate to his misplaced feelings of love for Robin's betrothed Marie-Anne. You feel a real sense of intimacy with the character as his tale is spun first person throughout. Dale is the strongest character in the book, as Donald seems to have favored action sequences over more involved secondary character development.
Religious themes are significant in Donald's world of 12-century England. Conflict persists between the regal and noble Christianity and the earthy and tribal religions of Robin's followers. Robin himself straddles both theological worlds and only commits himself to one or the other as circumstances see fit. This ecumenical tug of war is a cause of great internal strain for the young Dale as he tussles with his heart, morals, and growing admiration for Robin. Robin understands the politics of religion and also uses Catholic disillusionment to rally country-folk to his side. Likewise, he's happy to play the role of the good Catholic when needing the support and backing of the English aristocracy.
Donald's Robin Hood his guilty of some stilted and corny dialogue, but the action sequences are bloody and fresh, and keep the story rolling at a rapid pace. Donald's world is very boldly drawn, and the violence is vivid and tense. I wouldn't recommend this story for the feint of heart.
This is a strong entrant into the world of action historical fiction...in a similar vein to Conn Iggulden's "Genghis" series, and stronger than Iggulden's "Emperor" novels. It's great escapist reading, and while I won't line up to read the sequel the day it comes out, I'm definitely looking forward to reading more.
[I received a free copy of "Outlaw" from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program]