The Death of Robin Hood

Written by Angus Donald
Review by Carol McGrath

After the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, King John reneges on his promises and his barons rise against him. Amongst these is Robin, Earl of Locksley, the former outlaw Robin Hood, and his companion in arms, the aging Sir Alan Dale. This novel is set during the French invasion of 1216-1217.

Initially Robin and Alan side with the rebels and their French allies, led by King Louis and the White Count, a man who wears gauntlets made from the skin of his victims.  Angus Donald gets full marks for characterisation. From Robin of Locksley, Alan, through whose voice the tale is narrated, their sons, Matilda Giffard, Alan’s witchy lady, loyal Thomas, to the Comte du Perche who is suitably evil and ruthless, the central character depictions are vivid, human, believable and engaging. Not to be missed, too, are vignette portraits of King John and the young Prince Henry.

The novel opens with the siege of Rochester; a more detailed siege depiction one will not easily discover. After a period of incarceration Locksley and Alan join forces with King John, causing conflict within their own ranks. This first siege is mirrored by the final siege of the story, the siege of Lincoln, when after an unputdownable adventure both history and story find pitch-perfect resolution. During the finale, the real historical custodian of Lincoln Castle, the resolute Nicola de la Haye, takes up arms against the French and for the new King Henry.

The personal entwines with the history and that imagined conclusion is moving and wise. The narrative drive, pace, and character depth are masterfully handled. This accomplished novel mixes carefully researched history, storytelling and legend, and it has heart, with apt comments on power, fairness and loyalty. Reader, I loved this book.