Grail Knight by Angus Donald

grail knight

In this, this fifth installment of The Outlaw Chronicles, and as the title implies, Robin and friends are on a quest to capture the Holy Grail. The motives for the companions in this quest vary from member to member, from the pure joy of beholding The Cup Of Christ, to the desperate need to use it and it’s rumored healing powers, and even to others who seek it only for the power it bestows on the owner.  As in the previous volumes of this series, the author spins a wonderful tale full of visceral action and cunning intrigue.  All of the usual suspects of Robin’s gang are part of the quest along with Sir Nicholas de Scras and a surprise guest who shall remain nameless by this humble scribe.  Indeed, there are a few surprises in store not only character wise, but plot wise as well.  I will not reveal the author’s vision or description of the Grail though I will remark that I think he is correct.  As in any tale of the Grail there is the risk of it being fanciful as in The Da Vinci Code or an even more fancy tale as in Monty Python and The Holy Grail – alas no one shouts down from a castle rampart about elderberries and hamsters.  🙂  The author plays it out in a most agreeable fashion keeping the tale reasonable and yet still conveying the medieval longing for sacred relics be they real or not.  4 stars

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Warlord by Angus Donald

As this is the fourth book in this most excellent tale of Robin Hood, I sort of knew what to expect and was not disappointed.  This chapter revolves around King Richard’s attempt to drive King Phillip of France out of Normandy but there are plenty of other side stories and subplots as well.  Alan Dale is once again the narrator and in this tale is also one of the main characters as he struggles to find the real reason his father was killed and who the responsible party was.  Along with that he is also dealing with a curse levied at him and his bride to be.

The author has produced a magnificent tangle of twists and turns while also continuing his deepening of Alan’s character.  Alan suffers much agony and pain, physically, emotionally and spiritually during the many and varied adventures he takes part in during the course of this tale not the least of which is his concern about his own guilt in the deaths of so many he encounters in his quest for the truth. This is where the author shines in my view as he brings that pain and agony to the reader almost as if it leaps off the page as you read the words.

One of the big events, one that will carry over to the next book in the series is the introduction of The Holy Grail.  This most revered relic of Christianity plays an important part in Alan’s quest and serves as a catalyst for Robin to pursue this relic and possess it.  Thankfully the sequel, Grail Knight, is already available so I won’t have to wait too long to continue the pursuit.  I heartily rate this volume at 4.7.

a review of King’s Man by Angus Donald

The farther I go in this series the more I am convinced that Angus Donald’s Robin Hood is by far the best portrayal of this legendary man I have come across.  Couple that with his story telling ability and you have a must read scenario.  In this volume, King’s Man, Alan Dale finds himself labeled a traitor by seemingly everyone around him from Robin to Prince John to an old lover and even his good friends Marie-Anne and Godifa.  Things on the home front at Westbury where Alan is ensconced as Lord of the Manor and from where he is telling this tale as an old man, are also not as well as they could be.

The story has as it’s backdrop the attempt by Prince John to replace his held for ransom brother, Richard, as King.  While the deal making to set Richard free proceeds ever so slowly, John and the despicable Ralph Murdac consolidate their hold and power over the land and Robin finds himself an outlaw in Sherwood once again.  The action is relentless, the intrigues are many and the introduction of some especially nefarious characters make for a very enjoyable read.

Most of you will already know the historical outcome of this royal sibling rivalry between John and Richard but I bet you haven’t read as interesting a take on this event as you will by reading King’s Man.

a review of Holy Warrior by Angus Donald

Robin Hood, Robin Hood
Riding through the glen.
Robin Hood, Robin Hood
With his band of men.
Feared by the bad, loved by the good.
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood.

(lyrics  written by American composer Carl Sigman.)

Oh that catchy tune from the old Robin Hood TV show starring Richard Greene.  That was the Robin Hood I grew up with.  That is not the Robin Hood of this magnificent series by Angus Donald.  In this, the second book, Holy Warrior, we find Robin and his merry men as part of King Richard’s retinue on Crusade to free Jerusalem from the Saracens.  This despite Robins total disdain for the Christian Church but as a man of honor he is bound to his word.

Once again the tale is told in the voice of Alan Dale, personal musician or trouvere to Robin as well as one of his most trusted advisers.  Alan is an old man as he recounts his adventures with Robin.  I really enjoy the way the author has Alan not only reminiscent but also has him paint his life as a respected Lord of a manor.  This also affords Alan a chance to bare his soul about some of the horror he has witnessed or even helped commit.

The first part of the book revolves largely around Robin and Alan stuck in a siege by Christians against Jews in York.  The climatic finish to this chapter is just one more grim reminder of the dangers of dogmatic religious  hatred.  The author does not shy away from the portrayal of the brutality and malice born of the  fear and ignorance of the peasantry and also of the greedy, glory seeking nobility and church.  Twas indeed a brutal time to be on the wrong side of bias.

Assassins, intrigues, you name it, the author has it going full blazes throughout the story.  The characters of Robin and Alan reveal more and more of their true selves during the course of this second installment.  It will be of great interest and pleasure to discover how these two survive not only the perils of the age but also the perils of their differences.

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.