The King’s Assassin
In this 800th anniversary year of the Magna Carta, it seems only right that the latest instalment in Angus Donald’s Outlaw Chronicles should see his re-telling of the Robin Hood legend reach Runnymede. Alan Dale, our narrator, is now a sworn knight in the service of Robin. As Earl of Locksley, the ex-outlaw now plays an important part in the affairs of England, supporting men such as William Marshal and the king’s half-brother, the Earl of Salisbury. As the novel opens, Alan and Robin are, like the rest of England’s barons, being bled dry by King John’s rapacious demands for taxation and oppressed by the lack of justice he shows. Together with old comrades, including Little John, the two are then drawn into John’s wars with France, culminating in a tense, exciting account of the Battle of Bouvines. In the aftermath of the battle, as England explodes into civil war, Alan and Robin have to decide where their loyalties lie.
Alan is a likeable, yet flawed central character whose loyalty, sense of honour and impetuosity lead him to become embroiled in a plot to kill the king, and Donald’s writing is fast-paced and engaging. Despite being the seventh book in a series, this novel stands up well on its own. Donald’s fictional characters are rooted in a well-researched and believable historical backdrop, whilst also remaining true to the spirit of the Robin Hood legend. An entertaining and highly enjoyable read. Recommended.