Holy Warrior

Written by Angus Donald
Review by Sara Wilson

It is 1190 and King Richard is preparing to launch a crusade to seize Jerusalem from the Saracens. Amongst his great army will be a man whose reputation is sung about throughout the land, the Earl of Locksley – Robin Hood. The earl has assembled his own fighting force, with his band of erstwhile outlaws at its core – Little John, Will Scarlet, Brother Tuck and his song-maker and storyteller, Alan of Westbury.

Following on from Robin and Alan’s previous exploits in Outlaw, Holy Warrior is again told by an elderly Alan and paints a picture of a Robin who can be cruel and vengeful as well as loyal and steadfast. This is a man who will happily shed Saracen blood, without even sharing the Christian faith of his comrades. From the atrocities against the Jews in York to the bloody battlefields of the Holy Land, Robin and Alan stand together, but this time they also face an enemy from within – an unknown killer who has infiltrated their numbers and dogs their steps. The true danger may not come from the Saracen swords but from the assassin’s knife.

This is a cracking adventure story, both visceral and exciting. There is rich detail to be found and heroics a-plenty. The characters are mostly earthy, frequently bawdy and always larger-than-life. Although the main plot twist is signalled from early on, that did not detract from the constant sense of danger or from the frequent high-paced thrills. It was also great to have a hero with flaws. Gone is the Kevin Costner-style saccharin Robin Hood, and in his place is a brutal warrior warlord and in many ways a much more believable man of his time.