I want to begin by saying I was given an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
Novel summary by the author:
Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.
Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.
As you may be guessing, this review is a little different than those I’ve laid out in my guidelines. That is fine with me, however; to help Danielle E. Shipley launch her newest novel. This is the first time I’ve read an advanced reader copy of another author’s book.
The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale follows the titular character as he is brought from another world into modern times. His culture shock is eased by the fact that he lands in a Renaissance Faire, and not not just any Faire, but one that houses the real Robin Hood, Maid Marion, Will Scarlet, and Little John. There are also characters from King Arthur’s court.
I have to confess that I went into this blind. I did not realize that Allyn-a-Dale is a character from the Robin Hood legends. If you do not know who he is, he’s the minstrel of the Merry Men. (I had to look it up on Wikipedia, don’t laugh! Most of my study of Robin Hood has been historical reference rather than the myth itself.)
First for the positives
This book is absolutely fantastic. I can’t say it any other way. Shipley uses wonderful tone to tell the tale. Her writing reminds me of a more classic form of literature, although not as heavy and difficult to wade through. She often gives asides to the fourth wall to make humorous commentary as well, which gives you the impression of having the story told you. It is very much like a performer at a Renaissance Faire, who pretends to speak Olde English, but then reminds you that we are still in 2016.
The characters were delightful and their relationships believable and interesting. My favorites were Will Scarlet and his roguish ways and Allyn’s father Gant-o-the-Lute, who is always ready to offer helpful advice, even when it is rather obvious advice. Both characters made me laugh, which is what I like best in a book.
The action sequences were exciting, often unexpected, and Shipley is very good at creating an air of mystery and tension. I’m looking forward to when the rest of the series comes out because there are questions that remain once the antagonist is dealt with, which probably means I’ll be waiting for a while as this is only book one.
There are no editing or formatting errors to speak of, and the book is beautifully laid out. Being an advanced copy, I did not get to see the artwork which the final copy will contain. That’s okay, though, because I will when I get my actual copy once it releases.
As for my notes.
Really the only thing I can say is at the very beginning of the book I was a little disoriented. We start with two characters with roles that still seem uncertain, even at the end. After a short prologue we are moved to the point of view of Maid Marion, and then to a whole new world with Allyn-a-Dale.
After that it doesn’t take long for the confusion to be unraveled and everything from the start makes sense soon after. This note is chalked up to my own misunderstanding of the opening being more of a prologue than the actual story.
My overall rating of this book is five stars.
Important Information for The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale
The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale: The Outlaws of Avalon, Book One by Danielle E. Shipley
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy / Young Adult
Novel Release Date: July 12, 2016
Allyn would have known Will Scarlet for a relation of Robin Hood’s even had he not been introduced as his cousin. Though clean-shaven, younger, and framed by thick locks of gold tinged with the color of his name, Will’s face was patently similar to Robin’s, with the same blue eyes that sparkled cheerily at Allyn when the two were presented to each other.
“And where’d you pick this fellow up, then, Robin?” he asked blithely.
“In my tent,” replied Robin, “with Marion.”
Will’s brows leapt toward his crimson cap’s pointed brim. “Wish I were Allyn!”
“Joking, joking,” Will waved aside Marion’s halfhearted rebuke. He coughed. “…Mostly. So, Allyn-a-Dale — looking to join the Merry Men, are you?”
“I don’t really know,” Allyn said doubtfully. “What are the Merry Men?”
To Allyn’s heart-thudding dismay, Will answered, “We’re an infamous band of outlaws.”
“Not really,” Marion hastened to jump in.
“Not anymore,” Little John amended.
“It’s complicated,” said Robin. “But we’re really not at liberty to tell you much more about it until we’ve spoken to Merlin.”
“That would be King Arthur’s chief counselor and illustrious wizard,” Will said in answer to Allyn’s questioning expression. “He literally runs the show around here, so—”
“No,” said Little John, his gaze a grim weight on Will Scarlet.
“Oh, would you chillax, you pedant?” Will huffed, facial muscles ticking with minor irritation. “I know you think the Outsiders have been using the word with nary a care to its meaning, of late, but I know what ‘literally’ means, and in this case, I literally meant ‘literally’!”
The marginal lowering of Little John’s brow silently warned what he would literally do to Will if he said that word but once more.
“And they’re off,” said Robin, shaking his head. “Don’t worry, Allyn, they only bicker like this when they’re both breathing.”
Allyn’s lips twitched toward the beginnings of a smile, but froze halfway, his mind only just now becoming fully conscious of what he’d heard. “Robin,” he said, fighting a sudden swell of anxiety. “Did Will just say we’re off to see a wizard?”
About the Author
Danielle E. Shipley is the author of the Wilderhark Tales novellas, the novel Inspired, and several other expressions of wishful thinking. She has spent most of her life in the Chicago area and increasing amounts of time in Germany. She hopes to ultimately retire to a private immortal forest. But first, there are stories to make.