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Outlaw

Outlaw - Angus Donald You know Robin Hood. Splitting an arrow with a bow shot at 50 paces. Robs from the rich and gives to the poor. Battles Little John on a bridge or log with quarterstaves. In love with Maid Marian. Errol Flynn-handsome, a good and just thief. This is probably the Robin Hood you know, popularized by Ernie Pyle's The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. This is not the Robin Hood of Outlaw. This is a darker, grimmer Robin. Outlaw is a rousing, fun tale. Narrated by Alan-a-Dale, himself a late addition to the Robin Hood legend, Outlaw follows Alan's admission to the band of merry men and his training deep in the heart of Sherwood, and his eventual rise to be one of Robin's key confidants. Along the way, we see a lot of blood. Lots of it. Sword-blood, Arrow-blood, Crushed-by-Siege-Engine-Blood, Human Sacrifice blood. There is lots of armor and swords, and not enough heroics with bow and arrow for my taste - nor is there much "steal from the rich and give to the poor". The story diverges from the traditional telling of Robin Hood in a number of other ways as well. This Robin Hood is far closer to Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott's Robin Hood than to Ernie Pyle or Errol Flynn. For a first novel, the writing is strong and fast-paced - the novel never flags. There are a few anachronisms in the novel, and the occasional awkward writing. A harrowing Druid/Wiccan ceremony is well done but feels out of place (Donald admits as much in the afterward that it's not historically justified). If you are interested in the history of the legend of Robin Hood, and speculations on whether or not there was an historical Robin Hood, J.C. Holt's Robin Hood is enjoyable and accessible. Or, if you just want an enjoyable Medieval romp, just read Outlaw and enjoy. [I received a free copy of Outlaw via LibraryThing's wonderful Early Reviewers program]