Part of Donald’s Robin Hood series (King’s Man, 2012, etc.), this book is a bloodcurdling tale of medieval greed, cruelty and honor.
In A.D. 1194, young Sir Alan Dale is a faithful disciple of Robin Hood. Both serve England’s King Richard the Lionheart in his continuous battles across Normandy. Richard wants to recover land lost during his imprisonment, and France’s King Philip stands in his way. Richard’s warriors fight for king and loot, lopping off heads, disemboweling foes and turning limbs into bloody stumps. Alan does not share Robin’s lack of scruples or disdain for religion, but he admires everything else about him. Alan wants to marry the beautiful Godifa, “Goody,” for whom he preserves his virginity, but fealty to Robin and to King Richard keep delaying the union. Another obstacle is the hideous and crazed Nur, whom Alan had once loved until a fiend butchered her face. She will curse Alan and Goody should they go through with the wedding. Much of the plot is driven by Alan’s desire to identify the killer of his father—could it be the hated Mercadier or even Robin Hood? And might they find the Holy Grail, thought to have once held the blood of Christ? Donald writes in a "Historical Note" at book's end that he has been fascinated with the era since childhood, a claim supported by the richness of detail he provides in every scene. While protagonist Alan is a sympathetic and honorable man, he is also a ferocious and skilled warrior not averse to cleaving skulls before asking for God’s forgiveness. Many of the fight scenes show the thrusts and parries in detail, as though the author were a witness. In between are vivid depictions of 12th-century life, but the battles are what make the book thoroughly entertaining.
A fast-paced and exciting story unsuitable for the squeamish.