King's Ransom

Rated 4.67/5 based on 12 reviews
What really went on back in 1193? Was Richard Lionheart really the hero we think? Was John really that bad? And who was Robin Hood, no really, who was he? Find out the answers to all these questions and more, in this hilariously funny counter-history.

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About Tabitha Ormiston-Smith

Tabitha Ormiston-Smith was born and continues to age. Dividing her time between her houses in Melbourne and the country, she is ably assisted in her editing business and her other endeavours by Ferret, the three-legged bandit.

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Review by: Wendell Whitney Thorne on Jan. 9, 2017 :
I'm probably the only reader who doesn't love these old medieval tales. A natural-born contrarian, I scoff whenever the herd is galloping, head down, towards...something supposedly beneficial to it. As a result, I passed on a lot of these old fables at an early age, eventually making my way back to them in my later years. I was pleased to find that my earlier decisions often weren't so bad after all.
That said, I absolutely adore Ms Ormiston-Smith's voice. Prevalent but never interfering with the story, the fresh, conversational tone simply forces me to continue to read. I'm glad I did.
Her satirical handling of this time-worn tale has me wondering if she, too, was perpetually questioning the legion of stoic versions of the story that went before.
I laughed a lot, yes; but I also found myself wondering how much of King's Ransom was perhaps more accurate than any other version. After all, people have always behaved rather predictably human, regardless of the ultimate historical implications of their status or place in history.
Then, there is a dog. Not an ordinary dog, yet one that also behaves in ordinarily predictable ways, as dogs do.
They time and effort taken to thoroughly know these characters--thereby creating the 'what if' tenor of the novel--is obvious. The author's ability to disrobe them of their cloaks of courtesan highbrows (and to don them with a very modern day hypocritical Christianity) speaks loudly of her lust for human authenticity. My only real criticism is the title; there are just zillions of books out there with this title.
King's Ransom is fresh, fun and food for those who read for character over plot. Highly recommend.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Review by: AliHux86 on Oct. 1, 2016 :
King's Ransom is one hell of a read. While I liked John's character I definitely did NOT like Richard. While I found the first few chapters slightly confusing, Tabitha Ormiston-Smith definitely makes up for it worth the rest of the book
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Review by: colliehound on Sep. 28, 2016 :
I am a sucker for books with dogs, but as with this book, it often takes me down a path I might not follow otherwise. Oh, I am so glad I got lost in this one! Not my usual sort of read, I was a bit unsure on page 1, intrigued by page 2, and laughing out loud by page 3!
Set in the days of the Crusades, I loved the author's quirky take on well known historical characters from the past, and some of our better known legends were given a real twist, with some very unlikely but believable backstories . Very 'Forest Gump' in places.
The book is well written, with a modern slant on period language, which I liked. The period in which the tale is set is described very authentically too, and the major historical events are accurate, but the author showed a 'human' side of history, albeit I am sure with a rather large pinch of literary licence, but you could easily believe, it was all very plausible!
The dog of course is quite a character, but for those of you who have lived with a large hound, you will relate to the antics very well, and this is worth reading just for that
Whatever your normal genre of reading, do give this book a try, because I am positive that you will enjoy it.
[book:King's Ransom|31125620] Tabitha Ormiston-Smith
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
Review by: G H on Sep. 16, 2016 :
I loved the tentative interactions between John and Pansy that somehow grew into companionship. I also loved the way Pansy refused to obey anything even remotely resembling a command. And that "she" was rather unusual for a "she". Mumsie was hilarious, as were Marianne, Richard, Robin and Will. There was a wonderful cast of strange nobles and peasants who somehow managed to communicate with each other, despite a distinct lack of communication skills. I enjoyed the hijinks and ye olde expressions, along with John's forward-thinking political musings that were constantly met with blank looks and bemusement. There were many moments where I laughed out loud and I delighted in recognising familiar events in the tale of Robin Hood. Warning: don't read this in public You will look like a giggling nut. A fun read! Highly recommended.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Review by: Susan Day on Sep. 14, 2016 :
The King’s Ransom is one of the best things I’ve read all year.

Tabitha Ormiston-Smith certainly knows how to spin a good yarn.

She brings so a new fresh approach to this retelling of the classic Robin Hood saga.

Our lead characters in this story are Richard the boar hearted and his brother John – the dull and boring one.

The antics that surround John having to leave his writing to somehow raise the ransom demanded for the return of his brother to England are hilarious.

Ms Ormiston-Smith cleverly weaves modern thoughts and philosophies into this historic tale. She also reflects the narcissistic ways of many people we hold in high regard or we’re supposed to at least.

The characters are real gems from Bob, the sheriff of Nottingham, to the hound Pansy; and it is such a delight to follow their development, or lack thereof, through the pages of this book.

I’ve always been a fan of this author and The King’s Ransom doesn’t disappointed. Do yourself a favour and grab a copy today.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Review by: Chris Johnson on Sep. 13, 2016 :
I wasn't sure exactly what to expect when I started reading "King's Ransom". Having loved reading about Robin Hood as a child, and I had read many versions, I enjoyed Tabitha's version a lot. It's well-written, with a narration that occasionally breaks the fourth wall, and very funny.

As I read it, I noted that Tabitha had taken the time to research both Prince John and King Richard. That impressed me. She also managed to weave together a tale that is not your normal Robin Hood story. It contains humour, growing tension, an unexpected conspiracy behind the legend, and the antics of a deerhound as a surprisingly brilliant support character.

Occasionally, my wife would ask me why I was laughing; she thought I was listening to the same television program as she was, when I was really giggling at Pansy (or is it Ragges?) as the witness to something even funnier than "Robin Hood: Men in Tights".

Read it as soon as you can.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Review by: Gwen Dandridge on Sep. 12, 2016 :
A medieval romp through Nottingham. For those of you who love the daring tales of Richard the Lionhearted, Robin Hood and Maid Marion, and those who don’t, let yourself fall into the pages of this retelling of Robin Hood, from a slightly skewed perspective.

Pansy, the endearing and often misbehaving wolfhound, is a wonderful addition to the Robin Hood legend.

With a scholar's attention to detail and the broad narrative brushstrokes of a comic, it’s a delicious, amusing literary tromp though Sherwood forest.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Review by: Georgina Ramsey on Sep. 3, 2016 :
The King's Ransom is an enchanting, comical tale, set in medieval times, using new and much-loved characters from the world of fiction and history. A favourite character of mine was Pansy, the Deerhound, who graces the cover, and you'll soon understand why I fell in love with this one!

I didn't know what to expect when I picked up the book, but I was effectively plunged into the 1100s because of the clever scene-setting and dialogue, It actually floored me as to how much research had gone into this story, in order to transport the reader back in time. The writer succeeded... with bells on!

This book is a fabulous spoof. Don't overlook it because you think it's not your typical genre. It will surprise and entertain you.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Review by: Gail Foster on Sep. 2, 2016 :
The King’s Ransom by Tabitha Ormiston-Smith; a review

This is the story of ‘Richard the boar hearted’ and his brother John, ‘a dim and bookish boy,
always worrying about how many angels could dance on a pin, and such rubbish’, and of the machinations behind the scenes when John, who would rather be writing his ‘Treatise on the Governance of the Realm’ is forced by circumstance in to finding creative ways to raise the ransom demanded for the return of his brother to England.

Ormiston-Smith places her story firmly in the historical moment with the use of contemporary quotes as chapter headings. There is much delight and interest to be gleaned from these gems; from snippets of Malory’s ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’, ‘Bullein’s Bulwarke, the booke of the vse of sicke men and medicenes’, and ‘The Art of Courtly Love’ by Andreas Capellanus, as well as from ‘The Chronicle of Richard of Devizes’ and other more obscure sources.

There’s a weight to this tale. John is a deep thinker and an inappropriate socialist; his thoughts on collective farming fall on ears muffled by the weight of the crown. He may be wafty but he has a better grip on financial issues than Richard, who is easily distracted by thoughts of flattering textiles and the glory of ill-considered Crusades. The author touches on politics and the riches of the church, on corruption within the nobility and the clergy, and ineptitude at the highest levels of society.

At the other end of the scale we have feather-light wit and ironic insight in to human nature. There is a Blackadder quality here to be sure, and more than one Baldrick in these pages, however the writer manages to both embrace and avoid cliché. The evil Sheriff of Nottingham is just Bob. Robin is just a hearty type who enjoys hunting and fresh air. There are acute observations from intellectually challenged peasants, and neat little vignettes that deal with the spread of the myth of Robin of the Hood and the thwack of his arrows.

Ormiston-Smith hints at things in a way that provokes us to imagine. Whilst she could have gone further with the adventures of the randy Marianne, the imagery of her stumbling across the soapy peasants is in some way enough to inspire us to flesh her out ourselves. She could have gone further with romance and relationships, but then it would have been a different book altogether.

One cannot review this book without mentioning Pansy, the ‘monster with balls’. Somehow this canine character exemplifies the visceral nature of the era. He, she, it is all lolloping clumsiness; all spittle and dog vomit romping chaotically through a damp and smelly world of hunting, herbs and humors.

My only criticism of this story is that I felt that it came in like a lion and went out a little like a domestic cat, and that historical detail appears weighted towards the front end of the book. Sudden moments of delight, interest and humour more than compensate for this, and, every now and again, a description of the ‘country silence’ touches one somewhere unexpected.

By the end of The King’s Ransom I felt both educated and amused. The characters are loveable, despite their foibles. I learned a bit about history, and I laughed out loud more than once. This is a sweet read; a fun take on a much loved legend from an author who really knows what she’s doing. Enjoy.

© Gail Foster 24th August 2016
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Review by: Biju Vasudevan on Sep. 1, 2016 :
Being a non-native speaker of English (English as second language), I did face a lot of teething problems with Tabitha's exquisitely quaint and deliciously antiquated choice of words, which of course, are very pertinent to the period to which the central theme of this book belongs to. Once the initial hiccups were through, I got the real scent of the work, which I must say is eloquently crafted and laced with dollops of humor. Pansy, the quirky, unpredictable, but endearing deer-hound, was the highlight of this book for me. This additional character to the tale was the icing on the cake for me. A delightful read that will leave you smiling for no apparent reason, for a very long time to come.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Review by: N.W. Moors on Sep. 1, 2016 :
This was a very enjoyable retelling with 'embellishments' of the Robin Hood legend. The story centers on Prince John, a much more likable character in this story than he ever was during his lifetime. He has acquired a deerhound named Pansy who is integral to the story. Richard the Lionheart has just become king and is off to the Crusades leaving John to cope with the denizens of Sherwood Forest.
This is a very funny twisted story. The history is pretty accurate, but the author has managed to bring out different aspects in a very humorous manner.
A very entertaining book for a different view of the Third Crusade and what was going on back in Merrie Olde England.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Review by: Pat Nelson on Sep. 1, 2016 :
This book has got to be one of the funniest and fascinating books I've ever read. The author has blown the legend of Robin Hood completely out of the water, and totally rewrote it into a unique story that had me laughing through the entire book!! If you want to read a zany and hilariously different take on an old tale, this is it!!
(reviewed the day of purchase)
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