Hello Humans! I am so excited to talk about this book. I heard the phrase ‘Robin Hood retelling’ and I was instantaneously on board. This book had me hooked on the concept, the cover, the blurb – I was so ready.
But did I fall into the ‘overhyped’ trap? Did my own expectations for this book ruin it for me? It’s happened on many occasions… was I setting myself up for failure?
Robin of Locksley is dead.
Maid Marian doesn’t know how she’ll go on, but the people of Locksley town, persecuted by the Sheriff of Nottingham, need a protector. And the dreadful Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff’s right hand, wishes to step into Robin’s shoes as Lord of Locksley and Marian’s fiancé.
Who is there to stop them?
Marian never meant to tread in Robin’s footsteps—never intended to stand as a beacon of hope to those awaiting his triumphant return. But with a sweep of his green cloak and the flash of her sword, Marian makes the choice to become her own hero: Robin Hood.
So to start – don’t do what I did and assume this was a sequel to Robin Hood. It’s a retelling. I spent a good portion of this book confused (through no fault but my own) and then when I realised my mistake everything made sense!
So, did I spoil this book for myself?
No. In fact, I absolutely loved it. It somehow managed to hit pretty much everything I love in fantasy (that doesn’t have magic – historical fantasy? Fable? Is there a genre name for this?).
Marian is amazing. I don’t think anyone could feasibly write a book with Marian as the protagonist where she didn’t turn out amazing (she’s not much more than a damsel in the original so it’s not hard to improve upon her) but Spooner manages to make her relatable and kind and also incredibly badass and around five thousand other amazing character traits that I can’t list here for fear of sounding like I’m in love with her (which I am). She does edge towards ‘I’m not like other girls’ at times, particularly early on in the book, but I felt like her own view of herself and of women gets challenged by some of the other female characters she meets. It isn’t called out as much as I might have liked, but it isn’t just ‘oh woe is me I am tall and do not enjoy sewing how shall I ever live?’. You get some snippets of Marian’s childhood which really helps you to understand her motivation(s) as an adult woman. As I say, I love her.
You don’t need to be a Robin Hood expert to get this book, but I think if you have a little bit of knowledge about the original story then you’ll find some of the references more fun. I think that’s true of most retellings – you don’t have to have read the original but it adds to the enjoyment. In this case, since the relationships (romantic and otherwise) involved are so different it’s more than just a gender-flipped retelling – it goes to a much deeper place than that, though there are some familiar characters and scenes from the original story.
The one thing that stopped this book being a five-star read, for me, was the romance. I felt like it kind of snuck in towards the end and then went quite extreme quite quickly. I can completely understand why it had to work that way within the plot, but it did somewhat ruin the flow of things – at least for me. I think the problem is that Marian’s motivations are, at least in part, brought on by grief for Robin, so you can’t just have her falling for someone else from the start of the book, but it still felt very sudden.
I can set aside how I felt about the romance, however, because I just adored the rest of this book so much. I loved the action, I loved the mystery, I loved the themes and the ideas it explored. But most of all I loved Marian. She reminded me of a lot of other heroines of the genre with whom I fell in love both as a teen and as an adult – and not just because she’s great with a bow and arrow.
If you love Robin Hood and/or retellings I would definitely suggest that you read this. It’s a fast-paced read that manages to tackle some serious emotions while still having that sense of fun and frivolity that I think the original story has. I’ll be recommending it to pretty much everyone.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Sherwood is out in the UK on April 18th!
What say you? Will you be reading Sherwood? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!