Sherwood Book Review
Robin Locksley is dead. Before he ever had a chance to become Robin Hood, he's killed in the Crusades, a nameless soldier. His mourning betrothed is enraged at the mistreatment of the peasants ...
As a disclaimer, this is one of the first retellings I’ve read. The Lunar Chronicles, as a contrasting example, use characters and basic plot points as inspiration for (mostly) unique stories. But I don’t think I’ve ever read something that is based off such a well-known legend and so completely creates something new.
One aspect that initially struck me is the atmospheric setting. The medieval castles and lifestyles feel well-researched and realistic. Descriptions of the forests vividly bring the story to life. Contrary to other YA novels, I didn’t have a hard time imagining the layout, even without the assistance of a map.
A slight squabble I have with Sherwood is how some choices are predictable. One more minor annoyance, but the author begins an abundance of sentences with “she.” I’m fairly certain it also rains during a few dramatic moments.
I’m hesitant to mention this because I don’t want to in any way spoil the book, but here we are anyway. I’ll keep it as spoiler-free as possible, but if you want to avoid any spoilers, please head to the next paragraph! Marian’s romantic relationship that grows in the latter half of the book is the last part that I didn’t enjoy. I understand the characters’ motivations and reasoning, but it felt very rushed. As much as the book steered clear of many YA faults, the romance area was perhaps not one of them. It seemed a little unrealistic, given how fast it moves. And the very last two scenes, although touching and a bit humorous, were just a little too cheesy for my taste.
The characters are perhaps what I have the most complex feelings about. First, Robin’s view (as a side character) is so interesting as it’s never wholly clear if this is Marian’s perception of his beliefs and what he would say or if this is something more. Additionally, other stories portray Robin completely unwavering in his convictions and commitments to the throne, so I found it thought-provoking to see his internal conflict. He acknowledges that the Crusades are little more than a selfish quest for glory, and yet he makes the choice to follow his king. I also love how it’s emphasized that at the end of the day, it was indeed his choice, however difficult.
As much as I wanted to loathe Gisborne (the villain), he reminds me too much of Javert (from Les Miserables) to hate. Both are born into a low station and are at least partially misunderstood throughout most of the story. Both believe that a commitment to order is the way to rise above their social rank and one day impose justice. The difference, however, is that we get to see Gisborne change and develop as a character. Marian recognizes the conflict within him, saying “You’re not a rebel. You want revolution.” And his joy at being understood is heartbreaking.
Another interesting thread throughout the story is the question of if this is Robin would have wanted. After all, he was no vigilante in life.
Contrary to so many YA stories, we as readers see the consequences of Marian stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Stolen grain would have fed soldiers like Robin. Her actions have direct consequences, and it’s refreshing to see something other than “main character blows up buildings and destroys stuff and no one really cares because it’s a revolution.”
Marian also struggles with knowing if her love for Robin was truly real. Did she love him or the fact that he let her be free? But I love that at the end of it all, she realizes that he was her best friend, no matter how much beyond that her feelings extended.
Every character from Elena the handmaiden to the Friar are well fleshed out, making the story overall compelling and engaging.
Speaking of the Friar, he is without doubt one of my favorite characters, and I loved the moments we spent with him. They were so unexpected in a secularly published book. What struck me most was his belief in Providence. That if a character lived, it would be God’s mercy. Even if it’s the man’s will that helped him live, God gave him that will.
One last thing that I feel like I didn’t express properly is how purely fun this book is. Yes, it has heavy moments. Yes, it has death and grief. But from beginning to end, it kept me interested, and I had a blast reading it.
Themes: Grief, love, sacrifice, friendship, bravery, heroism
– God’s name is used in vain several times.
– d–n, b—–d, and a few crude comments
– 1 use of the s-word
– A couple of crude comments
– Reference to a couple sleeping together
– A lady mentions that her husband often “sleeps with those who can’t refuse.”
– Mentions of a woman’s breasts and period
– There’s one scene with passionate kissing.
– Some wounds, blood, etc.
– Mentions and brief, mild descriptions of torture
– Marian hears Robin’s voice in her mind and wonders if it could be his ghost. Many people also initially think Marian is Robin’s ghost when she becomes Robin Hood.
– Very off-hand mention of a druid’s magic talisman
– Some older characters drink.
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