Don’t be put off by the implication from Amazon that this is the second book in a series. The Outlaw Knight is a US republication of Chadwick’s Lords of the White Castle, which was originally a standalone novel. The first book of what’s now the series, Shadows and Strongholds, is actually the prequel, which was written after the success of Lords of the White Castle. So if you haven’t read the prequel, you haven’t read the original under its previous title, and you’re in the mood for meaty historical fiction, you definitely need to grab this now.
Fulke FitzWarin is sent to the court of Henry II as a fifteen year old and soon makes an enemy of Prince John. However, he is befriended by other nobles and learns to mostly keep his temper in check for the sake of his four younger brothers and his father’s campaign to have the castle at Whittington (on the border of England and Wales) restored to the family. The book follows his progress as a squire to one of those sympathetic nobles, his adventures with his brothers on the tournament circuit and then as outlaws, his eventual marriage to a young widow, as well as the rise and fall of his family’s fortunes after Fulke inherits his father’s title, properties and campaign for the restoration of Whittington to the FitzWarins.
Based on the true story of one of the inspirations behind the Robin Hood legends, this book paints King John as the chief villain of the piece, but never shies away from the grittier details of the lives of the nobles surrounding him. An author’s note at the end states that she avoided using the more fantastical parts of a contemporary chronicle, but this book is still packed with action and adventure. Nor are the women neglected; both Fulke’s mother and his eventual bride get important roles and there’s a wonderful anti-heroine early on, who doesn’t sidestep any chances to improve her lot in a difficult world.
This review has been tricky, since to say much about the story would give away too many of its twists and turns, although it’s fun spotting where Fulke’s story overlaps with the commonest Robin Hood legends. The ending is rather bitter-sweet, as can be expected from a true story set in such difficult times, but the whole is compelling and well worth reading for any fan of epic tales and accurately depicted, action-packed historical adventures.
A Deadly Rival.
An Ancient Family Dispute.
An Impossible Love.
He should have known better than to fight with the future King John. Ruthless and feared, John is not one to forget or forgive. But Fulke FitzWarin couldn’t help himself, and now the vindictive John has insured that Fulke will never become lord of the castle he loves.
Instead of accepting his fate, Fulke rebels. He begins an affair with Maude Walter, the wealthy widow desired by John himself. Negotiating a maze of deceit, treachery, and shifting alliances, Fulke’s route to success is blocked at every turn. And when the turmoil of the Magna Carta rebellion combines with a shocking tragedy, everything Fulke has fought for is thrown into the path of destruction.
Read an excerpt.