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31 January 2016 @ 11:49 am
The Outlaw by Angus Donald  

When he is caught stealing by the Sheriff’s men, Alan Dale’s mother saves him from losing a hand – or mom – by giving him to Robin Oddo, known as the outlaw Robin Hood.

Robin becomes his mentor, arranging tutors to teach Alan how to fight and how to sing, allowing Alan to become a trusted member of Robin’s band. But Alan also witnesses firsthand Robin’s terrifying ruthlessness.

As the Sheriff of Nottingham, Sir Ralph Murdac, closes in on Robin, Alan learns that there may be a traitor close to Robin. Can one of Robin’s closest comrades actually betray them all?

The author’s style of writing drew me into the book right away and was one of the main reasons why I finished it and why I will probably read the next book. I liked the characterizations and his take on the historical setting – I’m not sure I’ve read a Robin Hood story set while Richard the Lionheart was a prince and his father was still the king. Given how much I was drawn into the book by the author, I just wish that the book itself was better overall.

I did like the author’s take on the Robin character. I feel like ruthless might be putting it too lightly in terms of some of his actions. He wasn’t so much a “merry man” in this book, but someone who inspired terror in both his enemies and his allies.

The women characters were poorly handled throughout the book. None of them had any really characterizations or any story outside of the male characters. When the women characters were important to propel a man’s story forward they were there; if they weren’t needed they faded into the background. I also didn’t like Alan’s weird possessiveness over Maryanne.

This won’t be the first book where I have had this criticism, but I wish that  future Alan wasn’t the story’s narrator. Maybe I haven’t read an example that worked for me, but when narrators say something like, how wrong we were, or years later Robin and I did this, it takes me out of the story momentarily so that I get annoyed by it. I also felt that future Alan’s plot with a sick grandson was a pointless diversion from the main story.

The main flaw I found with the book was a lack of a plot or any motivation for the main character. Alan is with Robin because he has to be, but beyond that he doesn’t seem to be driven by anything. There are a couple of throw away lines about what Robin is hoping to accomplish, but those don’t seem to be driving the plot either. It’s more like this happens, they react, and then something else happens that they have to react to.

Plus the traitor is pretty easy to figure out.

Grade: C