AD 1215: The year of Magna Carta – and Robin Hood’s greatest battle. King John is scheming to reclaim his ancestral lands in Europe, raising the money for new armies by bleeding dry peasants and nobles alike, not least the Earl of Locksley – the former outlaw Robin Hood – and his loyal man Sir Alan Dale. As rebellion brews across the country and Robin Hood and his men are dragged into the war against the French in Flanders, a plan is hatched that will bring the former outlaws and their families to the brink of catastrophe – a plan to kill the King. England explodes into bloody civil war and Alan and Robin must decide who to trust – and who to slaughter. And while Magna Carta might be the answer to their prayers for peace, first they will have to force the King to submit to the will of his people.
So, I must confess that I’ve been obsessed with the Robin Hood legends since I was a small child. I daresay it was the product of growing up in the Midlands, and as a heartily unsporty child, displaying a modicum of talent in Archery, and so deciding that I was clearly destined for a life as a wood-dwelling outlaw. Whilst that hasn’t happened (yet), I still love a good book on Robin Hood, and also find the time period in which he (probably didn’t) exist intriguing, as our country changed enormously, in ways that still affect our very ways of life today.
This is the 7th in Angus Donald’s Outlaw Chronicles, a series of books which take a genuinely new and exciting look at an ancient legend, and have been thrilling many readers (including myself), for many years now. Many of these ‘Action/Historical Fiction’ books, of which we’ve seen a wave in recent years, either focus on bloody action, historical detail, or character. Angus Donald talent is in combining all three, creating gritty, affecting drama based in historical places and situations, and conjuring artfully drawn characters who inhabit every molecule of the three dimensions they are imbued with. The quality doesn’t let up in The King’s Assassin, despite having been writing these books for a good six or seven years now. Robin and Alan are still hugely readable characters, realistic in their flaws and decisions and compelling as they move the story along. Returning characters from previous books are a welcome surprise, and the plot is a page turner. Despite knowing that the major characters are likely to make it to the end of the series (or at least the final book), there are still several breath catching moments when I began to question that very idea… In addition, the time period is explored well – it’s always great to see genuine historical detail and infamous moments appear when you least expect it – whilst these may not be 100% accurate, I’d say they’re cracking books for getting teenagers and adults alike interested in history, with this compelling and imaginative take on the life of an English legend.