King’s Man

Written by Angus Donald
Review by Nancy Henshaw

Alan Dale, musician and would-be expert sword and dagger man, awaits – as does his master Earl Robert of Locksley – the return from the Crusade of Christendom’s most charismatic monarch, King Richard the Lionheart. The news that the king has been captured and imprisoned in Germany initiates a falling apart of the Plantagenet empire. The nobility of England must take sides: the imprisoned anointed king or his power-hungry brother, Prince John.

Earl Robert, condemned for witchcraft by the Inquisition, escapes into Sherwood to resume his life as Robin Hood. Nineteen-year-old Alan Dale’s dangerous mission into Germany succeeds in establishing the Lionheart’s whereabouts; intense negotiations begin to raise the exorbitant ransom. Meanwhile, vicious conflict rages through England, stopping short of outright civil war. All the bloody encounters throughout this lively tale are given to readers in vivid and convincing detail, culminating in the attack on Nottingham Castle, where Alan’s loathsome bugbear, Ralph Murdac, is in charge as constable.

The women have a meagre share in this exciting story. Aged Queen Eleanor obtains the Lionheart’s release “off stage.” Earl Robert’s Marie-Anne simply is who she is. Alan’s beloved Godifa – “Goody,” aged 15 – registers outstanding mood swings, and Nur, the mutilated Saracen, with good reason, is noisy and grotesque.

A great book for men and boys who would enjoy novels about Earl Robert, aka Robin Hood. Alan must take care of his musician’s hands, though: so many of his terrible fights are hand-to-hand.