First Lines: A small vagrant breeze came from nowhere and barely flicked the feather tips as the arrow sped on its way.
Hey guys! So I grabbed this at the library because A) it’s Robin McKinley, who has written some of my favorite Beauty and the Beast retellings and B) I really do love me some Robin Hood. I’m on a British/medieval kick right now (not really shocking, since I am about 60% of the time anyway), and this seemed like it would hit the spot.
Robin, a young forester, is weak. Or at least that’s what the other foresters think. As a target for their bullying, Robin does his best to stay out of their way. But when one confrontation leaves a man dead, Robin knows his only option is to hide in Sherwood Forest. With the help of a few friends, Robin manages to put together a small camp and recruit others who don’t fit in. But creating a band of outlaws is the easy part…what happens when the Sheriff of Nottingham begins hunting for them?
I’m not really doing this book justice with that blurb, because it covers so much of the Robin story that it’s impossible to mention all of it, but it covers the big parts.
This was pretty well done. It does start off slow though, I will say. It took me a while to get into the story, but once I did, it was cute. There were a few twists I was not expecting, which says something for a legend I know as well as this one. I liked the changes that she made to the story (which every author does) and I thought it built well on the original legend.
The characters are all quite charming (well, besides the villains, obviously). They each have their quirks and I liked being introduced to each of them. I really liked Little John, who has been rapidly rising in my respect of his character the more I read these retellings. And it has all the old favorites: Alan-a-dale, Much, Marian (who is a very strong and vivacious lead, certainly not a caricature), Will Scarlet, the Sheriff, King Richard, etc. It also includes characters I was not familiar with. A few I’m pretty sure were made up for this story (like the young Cecil, who becomes Little John’s boy), but others I think are in some of the older version of Robin Hood and have been dropped in more recent years.
Speaking of characters, as I mentioned with Marian, she is a female character worthy of admiration. Most/all of the female characters were. I absolutely loved that McKinley made it a point to show the strength of women, whether they were fighters, nobles, or simply the kitchen help. Each one of them had a moment where you saw them as a person with fears and strengths rather than simply a shadowy, requisite female character.
The plot, after the beginning, can be quite exciting. We cover so many of the stories surrounding Robin that we’re familiar with: Robin on the run, meeting Little John, Robin’s feelings for Marian, stealing from the rich to give to the poor, etc. This story does make it more of an Us vs. Them story, with the Saxons (the original people of England) vs. the Norman invaders (those who came from France with William the Conqueror to take over and settle England, thus starting British history as we know it). This was a point of real contention at this time, and it was a twist that I don’t usually see a lot in modern Robin Hood tales.
The ending is definitely worth it. It just takes a little while for this band of merry men (and women) to get going.