With this instalment we reach the end of Angus Donald's clever retelling of the Robin Hood story. I've really enjoyed this series over the years I've been reading them. It all started out with Alan Dale a young lad in Nottingham just to learn how to survive. He was taken under the wing of a bunch of notorious outlaws around the Sherwood Forest and he has forever been one of Robin Hood's men. We long ago learnt that Robin Hood is in fact a noble man and a Lord himself but he roguish nature always looking to profit for himself make him the outlaw we know. The books have always been written from Alan's point of view as an old man recounting his youthful, and now not so youthful, adventures with his Lord.
Obviously the main plot feature is given away in the title but the suspense of exactly how Robin dies if left to the very end of the book and is an emotionally engaging story in itself. We join the action soon after the signing of the Magna Carta. I was personally instantly engaged in the action as it starts with the start of the siege of Rochester Castle in 1215 when the rebel barons of England are at war with King John. I live close to Rochester and have frankly am often in the shadow of the castle without remember this darkest of its days. You can still see on the south east corner where the tower of the outer walls were replaced and the tower of the keep also after the siege ended with mining of the walls and tower and bombardment. After finishing the book last week
The rebels want the king to honour the now infamous document and stop bleeding them dry with taxes and not listening to their counsel. King John continues to be portrayed as a cruel coward but to be fair that is how most of history views him. Robin and Alan make alliances of convenience as Prince Louis of France uses the rebellion to assert his claim on the throne of England. You do wonder what would have happened if they had won? What would British history now look like I wonder? I'm glad that Angus points out the often incorrectly attested view that England has never been invaded since 1066. A stones throw from Rochester Castle is Upnor Castle - It is on the opposite bank of the Medway a mile or so further downstream. That castle played an important part in repelling Dutch invasion forces some 452 years later after they had already set foot ashore on the Isle Of Sheppey.
Anyway back to the story. This book is an excellent ending to the series book 8 of the merry men's adventures and with only Alan and Robin left from the original band Robin bowing out soon after King John has gone and the famous William the Marshal (Possibly Britain's greatest ever soldier) finally quells the rebellion and ousts the French upstart from England leave the boy king Henry III to rule in peace - well for a while.
Cracking good read as have all the series been with much historical accuracy and research and where Angus has bent truth for the purposes of story telling he is generous to tell us post the Epilogue. If you like good historical fiction this is some of the very best. I look forward to where Angus will next take us.
Two thumbs up on the FITUBRS*
* Furtheron International Thumbs Up Book Review Scale -
lowest is both thumbs down with a frown
two thumbs down,
one thumb horizontal,
two thumbs horizontal,
one thumb up,
two thumbs up
two thumbs up with a grin - very rarely awarded