Outlaw 2: Holy Warrior
The second novel in Angus’ superb Outlaw series takes a slightly different direction from the first. While Outlaw drew on the traditional legends of Robin Hood and used them to create a new tale in a very realistic environment, the feel was clearly still a Robin in Sherwood one, for all its grit and realism. Holy Warrior is entirely different, and this to me is the making of the book. It would have been easy enough for the author to revisit the old territory for a sequel, but I think such would only have diminished the impact of the first. Taking the story in a new direction has kept the series fresh and made Holy Warrior as much a great book in its own right as a great sequel.
When the first book ended, given the situation (which I shall not reveal for fear of spoilers), I did wonder how Angus was going to be able to produce a sequel. This tale, still told from the point of view of Alan Dale, with Robin as an objective character rather than the lead, surprised me in a number of ways.
Firstly, the characters have changed subtly due to their experiences. The Alan we see in Holy Warrior is a different man to the boy in Outlaw, more confident, stronger, a little more embittered and thoughtful. Robin also had changed, burdened by so many more cares and difficulties than once beset him. The introduction of a number of strong new characters also injects fresh life into the tale.
Secondly, the story is set to the background of the Third Crusade. This event is one of the few parts of medieval history I’m fairly familiar with and I wondered just how it was going to surprise and entertain me, given my foreknowledge. The answer is: perfectly. The story is not hinged upon the crusade, though the holy war is clearly a large part. It is more a story of struggle, revenge, personal growth and change, orienting specifically mostly around Robin, Alan, their Jewish friends and a new vicious enemy who I shall not name yet. Amazingly to me, there is one event in the 3rd crusade that I consider the most amazing and fascinating and in an unexpected move, this event almost goes unnoticed due to the absence of the narrator. Such wonderful ‘curve-balls’ are what kept me guessing.
Thirdly, as a historian living near York, I was impressed with Angus’ handling of late 12th century York and the events that took place there. These events I know well and yet they were made to fit seamlessly into the tale without a hiccup, as though they had always been linked.
Essentially, while there is so much more I could say, I will simply say bravo, Angus, and I look forward to reading King’s Man, which sits watching me expectantly from the bookcase.