The first book in the historical Nottingham series reimagining the myth of Robin Hood. Or rather a deconstruction of the myth.

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Publication year: 2019

Format: Audio

Running time: 25 hours 25 minutes
Narrators: Raphael Corkhill, Marisa Calin

This was far darker than I expected it to be. I guess it can be called realistic but is it really realism when every decision has bad consequences? But I guess it is realistic when everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing, no matter who they hurt or how much.

I was curious to read another reimagining of Robin Hood but unfortunately, this one wasn’t for me. For one thing, three significant POV characters are new: William de Wendenal, Arabel de Burel, and Elena Famwell, Will Scarlett’s lover. They’re solid, flawed characters with dark pasts. But since they’re not part of Robin’s myth I didn’t care for them. For another, it’s very dark. No matter how much the characters strive to do good, all their actions turn out to be wrong.

Set in 1191, King Richard is fighting in the crusades with Robin of Loxley and William de Wendenal as his closest allies. Robin and William even wear the king’s crown from time to time, acting as his body doubles to draw away assassins. But money and weapons don’t flow from England and that hurts the army. When Robin is wounded, he and William are sent to England to retrieve the missing weapons.

Meanwhile in England, the sheriff of Nottingham and his guard captain Lord Guy of Gisborne must collect crippling taxes that the king has ordered to fund the war. Lady Marion Fitzwalter is doing her best to keep the people from starving or rotting in jail because they can’t pay the taxes.

In the forest, a group of outlaws and former street urchins hide out, stealing what they can. Their leader is a huge, older man John Little who tries to keep his people safe. But Marion gives them information and directs their efforts.

The book did have some very interesting reversals. The current sheriff, for example, is trying to do his job and keep the peace. But the king’s demands and the disdain of the local nobles makes it very hard. Even his guard captain Guy thinks the sheriff is weak and ineffectual. Guy himself loathes everyone who breaks the law and does his best to keep his own men safe.

So, everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing, but they’re working against each other, which adds to the grim tone. Everyone also assumed others’ motivations are bad. However, there was some humor, especially in the banter between the characters.

The Robin Hood mythos had quite a few reversals. The biggest one is, of course, right from the start Marion was leading the outlaws and Little John was the field leader. Also, Robin’s attitude toward poor people was very elitist: he thought they were poor because they didn’t work hard enough and when he started to help the poor, it was a political choice. Alan a Dale isn’t a musician at all. Robin often mentions that the outlaws can’t effectively fight against Nottingham’s guard because the outlaws aren’t trained and have poor weapons. Will Scarlet has a different upbringing, I liked him a lot. I won’t spoil the others. Some of them I liked, some I didn’t. It was nice to see more female characters, though.

The book has multiple POV characters and each chapter starts with the name of the POV character and where he or she is. The story has quite a few surprises. Even the end has a very surprising twist and is a cliffhanger, not really an ending.