Author: Meagan Spooner
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publication Date: March 2019
Hardcover: 480 pages
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.
Stand alone or series: Standalone novel
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the Publisher
Format (e- or p-): Print
Maid Marian has known a few things for her entire life: that she is too tall, too aggressive, too too for a lady. But she has always taken solace in the fact that she can be herself and find a small measure of freedom with her best friend–who also happens to be her betrothed–Robin of Locksley. Friends and co-conspirators since childhood, Marian has accepted her place in the world as the future Lady Locksley, and is devoted to her people. So, when Robin leaves her to join King Richard on the Crusade, Marian is shaken but takes heart in the fact that their separation is just temporary.
But then Robin dies in battle, and Marian’s world is completely upended.
Her future, her freedom, disappears with the delivery of a single message: Robin of Locksley is dead. And while Marian is heartbroken over the loss of her best and truest friend, she is just as devastated by the loss of her ability to protect the people of Locksley. This becomes painfully apparent to Marian when she learns that her maid’s brother, Will Scarlett, is accused of being an outlaw and she is powerless to save him from imprisonment and certain death.
The story of Robin Hood happens by accident.
Marian puts on Robin’s green cloak, having snuck into his old room to feel close to him one last time, and is wearing it when she sets out to find and save Will before the Sheriff’s men do. Being tall, strong, and a powerful rider–not to mention a better archer than Robin ever was–she is mistaken for a man. Not just any man–but Robin himself, back from the grave.
Marian allows her legend to grow. Rob from the rich, give to the poor–and above all, never, ever let anyone guess the truth of her identity. Not even the new friends and allies–John, Alain, Will–because who would ever follow her?
So, confession time. I apparently have a thing for Robin Hood retellings–who knew?!–because when I saw this book I was immediately drawn into what I thought was the premise: Maid Marian assuming the cowl of Robin Hood after his death.
But friends, it turns out that this is not the actual premise of Sherwood. In fact, this book is an origin story. It is the beginning of Robin o’ the Hood–an origin story that begins with Marian, not with Robin of Locksley. When I realized that, I was instantly hooked. We watch as Marian gathers her merry men–risking everything to save Will and Maria, stumbling into Little John and Alain and earning their respect and trust, all the while masking her own identity and struggling with her own sense of right and wrong, her doubts and fears, her sense of responsibility and righteousness. I loved every moment of it.
Easily, the strongest part of this book and the reason it works is Meagan Spooner’s superb characterization of Marian. As our hero, Marian is introduced to us as physically strong–taller and a better wrestler and archer than Robin ever was–but not implausably powerful. She’s very believable in her doubts and questions of morality, as well as her struggles to find a place in a society that cannot accept her as she is–but unquestionably, Marian is a woman of her time, and Spooner manages to capture this balance of feminist thought, without making the narrative too modern or unbelievable.
Similarly, I love the relationships throughout Sherwood–between Marian and her father (TEARS), her trusted maid (the only other main female character and the first to instinctively know Marian’s secret moonlight job), and her men. There are surprising moments of insight and tenderness as we dive into flashbacks between Marian and Robin as children; particularly of interest are Marian’s own tangled emotions when it comes to her late betrothed and the question of true love. Of course, there’s also a central romance that is restrained and beautifully executed, between Marian and the traditionally villainous Guy of Guisborne (in this version, he is a low-born son of a stable master, raised to nobleman after his fighting in the Crusades and service to the Sheriff of Nottingham–who is also his surrogate brother). The tension between them–as Marian, as Robin Hood–is intense, people. And I ate up every moment of it (and also absolutely LOVE this new interpretation of the Guy-Marian-Robin love triangle).
All things said, this was a delightful gender-flipped origin story, and I loved it very much. (Probably tied with No Good Deed as my favorite modern Robin Hood retelling.) Absolutely recommended.
Rating: 7 – Excellent Fun