review of Outlaw by Angus Donald

Throw away, disregard or put in your back pocket any of your preconceived ideas of Robin Hood.  Angus Donald’s Robert Odo is not the Errol Flynn/Richard Greene/Kevin Costner versions of Robin Hood (I don’t include Russell Crowe only because I haven’t seen his portrayal).  No, this Robin Hood is more along the lines of Don Corleone as he metes out justice and hands out favors to those in need among the villagers in Sherwood Forest.

The Outlaw is told from the perspective of an elderly Alan Dale who as a boy was rescued from certain death at the hands of the evil sheriff of Nottingham Sir Ralph Murdac and became one of Robin’s most trusted aides.  The rest of his well-known followers are here as well from the hulking irreverent epithet uttering John Little to the monk-warrior Tuck.

Donald’s Robin Hood is a complicated man, at once a lover of music and of The Countess of Locksley Marie-Anne but also a ruthless, cunning leader of his own private army.  He is also of a pagan bent with little regard for God and the church.  This leads to some very tense relationships; particularly with his brother Hugh and with Tuck.  This proves to be a very important aspect of the book and leads to some rather unpleasant results

The characters are more real than the altruistic ones we are used to reading about or seeing on the screen.   I enjoyed the way the author constructed his characters.  They make you feel as if you are in Sherwood whether the scene is an idyllic feast or one of the confrontations with Murdac.  Happily the sequel, Holy Warrior is already written and I am looking forward to following Robin and his loyal band of followers.

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