Historical Romance Novel Book Review: The Robber Knight

When you are fighting for the freedom of your people, falling in love with your enemy is not a great idea. Or is it? Ayla has to defend her castle and her people all on her own, with nobody to help her but a dark warrior she hates with all her heart.

Sir Reuben, the dreaded robber knight, has long been Ayla’s deadliest enemy. He has prayed on her and her people ever since her father fell ill, and she swore he would hang for his crimes. Now they are both trapped in her castle as the army of a far greater enemy approaches, and they have only one chance: stand together, or fall.

This book wasn’t bad, honestly. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, and it had been awhile since I’ve read a medieval love story, so that was a nice change of pace.

The author is a historian, so there are a lot of little things in this book that you don’t see in a lot of other historical romance books. For instance,you can’t pull out arrows because there are often barbs attached to cause fatal wounds if pulled out. I did like learning about all of these facts. But sometimes Thier lets the historian in him gets the best of him, but more on that later.

Lady Ayla was a pretty interesting character. Headstrong and wise for her years, she is very noble and progressive. She has all of the makings for a great leader– with the exception of knowledge. I loved how kind and committed she was to her people and I love the fact that she has some spunk. I mean, if I’m getting robbed in the forest by this random stranger, then I hope I would swear him out too (of course, if I could beat him up and get away, then that’s even better, but Ayla doesn’t have much self-defense skills). But there were many times that she was annoying, like her insistence on being near battles, even before she started treating the sick. And how she tried to manage Sir Isenbard during battle. She had called on him for help because he was an experienced knight, and now she was questioning his commands and strategies in the heat of battle!

Mostly, though, I really did like Ayla. She defines the idea of nobility. With war inevitable, she’s willing to ride personally to the edges of her land to warn her subjects and she is always at the outskirts of battle to help care for the wounded. She invites everyone into the castle for their safety and rations herself as well as the others to conserve food. She’s even willing to corrupt herself to save her people.

Reuben is an excellent character as well, although it did take me awhile to like him. In the beginning he fell a little flat. It’s clear that he used to be a knight but something happened and now he robs people for his own greed. A near-death experience and being saved by Lady Ayla reawakens the humanity in him. And apparently also some depth.

In the beginning of the book he spends a lot of his time admiring his loot and laughing about his victims, who thought they had a right to steal from him. But that’s all he does. We have no real insight into his character or backstory until after he’s in Ayla’s care. Only then are there hints of a bad history where he had been arrested many times, been tortured, and had at one point been a member of respectable society. If it weren’t for the fact that I liked Ayla’a character and the plot so far, I probably would have stopped reading.

Thier is a writer who has really good potential in becoming a great romance writer, especially for historical fiction. The plots have some unique twists that are augmented by his knowledge of history and after Reuben’s character shaped up, he was an excellent love interest. But there is one huge problem with this story: the footnotes.

There are so many footnotes throughout most of the book that I feel like I’m reading a history textbook, which is not good when I usually read romance novels to take a break from homework. Not only are they distracting and unnecessary, but they are also rude and condescending. Sure, sometimes they were useful, like in explaining the references to the seven princes of hell. Another one was a pretty funny anecdote about how one of his readers had actually confirmed that lard burns and that burning arrows work because they had actually done it. There is also a lot of wit throughout the footnotes which is pretty amusing. But most of the time, they were annoying.

For instance, Robert Thier thought it was necessary to include a footnote about how witches were considered bad during medieval times. Seriously? Even if someone failed history, we know that witches are not considered fine, upstanding citizens. Or maybe he thinks all of us have been locked in our rooms with no books, internet or television for our entire lives and for the month of October we all miraculously fell into a coma so we couldn’t see the giant blow-up witch in the neighbor’s yard. And then we’d all wake up singing Christmas carols after the month long coma without a care in the world because this happens every year so we don’t know what a witch is. (I’m developing a conspiracy theory about how these strange comas was caused by witchcraft.)

Maybe Thier assumed that instead of us thinking Reuben was scared of witches when he wondered if Ayla was one, we just thought he was commenting on how much Ayla looked like Sandra Bullock.

And one of the footnotes was just plain offensive. Here is the line of text that the footnote is attached to: “Heel! Abominable villain! You dare defy me?” (page 74)

Now, here’s the footnote: “Sorry to disappoint the ladies, but this doesn’t refer to high heels. It is a medieval term for a very nasty person.”

Excuse me? Did you just assume that I thought it meant high heels and that would make me excited? What world do you live in?

Apparently he thinks “the ladies” are so dumb that we are incapable of taking context clues and we immediately think everything relates back to fashion. Maybe I didn’t know it meant “very nasty person”, but it’s pretty clear it’s a swear or insult of sometime, not a freaking Jimmy Choo. Does he just imagine us thinking high heel every time we hear the word?

“She broke his nose with the heel of her hand.” Oh. High heel!

“Heel, fido! I said heel!” Oh. High heel!

“It will take one or two days for your cut to heal.” Oh. High heel! (Because if he thinks we don’t understand the difference between uncomfortable footwear and an insult, then he probably thinks we can’t spell, either).

But hey, at least Robert Thier thinks women can memorize stuff, because the footnote links stop as the vocabulary is repeated instead of new terms being introduced.

Aside from the footnotes, I really do like this book, and I can’t wait to read the second part of it, which I’ll read soon. Thier still has a long way to go, but I think after he has more experience, he’ll write some great books.

I read the free version on Smashwords, but he also has a special edition* that has about 20,000 words more of material that shows more of Reuben’s backstory. I haven’t gotten it yet, so I don’t know if it’s worth it or not, but I do know I want to find out more about Reuben and how he got like he is. So I’m thinking about buying it. Have any of you read The Robber Knight, free or the special edition? What did you think?

*Disclaimer: By using one of my affiliate links, you are enabling my addiction to books, tea, slave-free chocolate, and giving to charity.