Hello Humans! Lately, it would seem that the fae (fey, fairies – you get the gist) are making a comeback – ok, one could argue they never left. But with the resounding success of Holly Black’s Folk of the Air series I don’t think it could be denied that the fae are somewhat en vogue.* I’ve given my fair share of fae books their shot, I’ve loved a couple of them, I’ve hated the odd few and I’ve been pretty ambivalent about others. But this one promised a hook that this fish could not resist – it’s the Robin Hood angle.
*I’m not going to descend into the madness that comes from discussing ACOTAR – if that’s your jam then go you.
Someone is murdering the Merry Men – and if Marian doesn’t stop them, her children will be the next to die: a wonderful re-imagining of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, perfect for fans of Katherine Arden, Naomi Novik and Christina Henry.
It’s been a mostly quiet life since Robin Hood denounced Marian, his pregnant wife, and his former life and retreated to a monastery to repent his sins . . . although no one knows what he did that was so heinous he would leave behind Sherwood Forest and those he loved most.
But when friends from their outlaw days start dying, Father Tuck, now the Abbott of St. Mary’s, suspects a curse and begs Marian to use her magic to break it. A grieving Marian bargains for protection for her children before she sets out with a soldier who’s lost his faith, a trickster Fey lord and a sullen Robin Hood, angry at being drawn back into the real world.
Marian soon finds herself enmeshed in a maze of betrayals, tangled relationships and a vicious struggle for the Fey throne . . . and if she can’t find and stop the spell-caster, no protection in Sherwood Forest will be enough to save her children.
This book’s description (minus the Fey) is basically pure catnip to me. It’s got Maid Marian being a witch, it’s got murder mystery, it’s got Robin Hood – I’M ON BOARD.
Alas, and alack this book just didn’t quite hit the mark for me. I definitely enjoyed reading it overall, but it’s one of those books that, on reflection, I don’t recall too much about, it just didn’t make a huge impact.
There were elements that I really enjoyed, I did like the way this book made Marian into a witch/magic-user and that it had her separated from Robin from the start. I thought this managed to make Marian into a more rounded character than she often is. I also liked that more specifically Marian was kind of a Hedgewitch – rather than just having phenomenal cosmic power her magic has clear purpose and, for the most part, has quite a gentle vibe to it.
So yes, Marian as a character gets my seal of approval.
I just wasn’t totally into the tone of this book – and I know that’s a hugely subjective thing but I’ve got to be honest in these reviews or what is the point. It seems to be a hallmark of ‘Fey’ books that the writing gets quite abstract, with lots of detours into trying to decipher what the trickster Fey might actually mean – I just wanted to solve a murder and shoot arrows in the forest and I felt like this didn’t have that.
Typing that sentence perhaps helps me to solidify what bothered me most. I think it’s my own association with Robin Hood – as a fun adventure in the forest where the good triumph and the villains are left penniless at the end. This book, while it was tied to the Robin Hood story, felt quite detached from that tone. My best comparison is the difference between the two acts of Into the Woods. So don’t go in expecting an adventure with whatever the forest equivalent of swashbuckling is and you’ll probably have a good time.
I also felt like a lot of this book got tied up with romance that I just didn’t care about. The nice thing about detaching Marian from Robin is you no longer have to deal with anyone mooning or putting someone on a pedestal – but not in this case. Personal preference strikes again but I just didn’t really care about the romantic aspects of this story.
Overall, I would probably read this again with a slightly different perspective, as I feel like my opinion was largely coloured by my own preconceptions about what the book would be. If you enjoy reading books with the Fey you will doubtless have a much better time than I did. If you share my reading tastes exactly…I’m not able to comment.
My rating: 3/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Brightfall comes out on September 5th!
What say you? Do you love the Fae? Let me know in the comments below!