Author(s): Robin McKinleyDownload
New York Times bestselling author Robin McKinley’s vivid retelling of the classic story of Robin Hood breathes contemporary life into these beloved adventures, with Marian taking a pivotal role as one of Robin’s best archers.
Some Reviews: 860 in Goodreads.com
I found that I adored him and that he came alive for me as Robin Hood. He is not the typical version – he is a reluctant hero, more forced into the role by his friends than by his own wishes. (“‘That’s why we need you,’ said Much comfortably. ‘You’re a pessimist and a good planner.’ ‘I have be begun to plan and be pessimistic,’ said Robin angrily.”) Robin is simply average – he is not great with a bow, he can hold his own in a battle but he is not fighter; he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and from there a legend bloomed that he never wanted, but could not deny.
Yet, he has these moments where he just tends to shine. Sometimes it was in a verbal battle over what to do or what approach to take (his action tending to be the more conservative approach). Other times it was the manner in which he approached conflict with an off-handness that fit the movie-esque view of Robin. And other times it was the anger and fear that bubbled to the surface making him more human and more Robin Hood in a single instant. (“[A]nd he stood a moment, head bowed and legs braced, staring at his fallen enemy; and he realised his hands were trembling.”)
What is great about Robin is this normalcy and the fact that, of everyone, he appears to be the least taken by their values. He does believe in justice, but he also believes in the sheer fact that he wants to remain alive. Through a combination of persistent friends, a Sheriff’s iron fist, and Robin’s desire for justice, the legend comes to life and, by the end of it, it appears to do the same for Robin.
McKinley is an author I can depend upon. Regardless of her topic (thus far, anyway), I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her books. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, I don’t mean it to. Her books may not be life-altering, but they are well-written, entertaining, with enough depth to satisfy. Outlaws of Sherwood is aptly titled; it’s less about Robin Hood individually than the merry band as a whole, which works well in this instance. I’m a sucker for anything remotely related to Robin Hood, so I admit I’m easy to please, but I really liked how each character stood out and yet bore the recognizable marks of their legendary counterparts. Much of McKinley’s themes deal with legendizing and the importance of a true fiction over a false truth.
What if Robin Hood was a lousy marksman? What if some terrific writer retold the story of the Outlaws of Sherwood in an entirely new (to me) way? The answer is this book! This awesome book by the even more awesome Robin McKinley whom I grow to love more and more the more I read from her.
This story is magnificently told as it’s not only the story of Robin Hood, it also tells us the story about Will Scarlet, about Maiden Marian (who’s not so much as a damsel in distress as a strong, independent heroine), Little John, Friar Tuck, and so many others. Initially I thought that this book would be mainly about Robin Hood and Marian, but there was so much more to the story that I couldn’t help but love.
And even though the book was about more than one-two characters, I grew to love them all. I rooted like hell for Little John and his romance, I was even bigger a champion for Marian and Robin whose romance was anything but fast. It quite literally took them years to tell the other one how they felt and for them to get past the stage of friendship – and I dig that. I dig that a lot. It’s like my personal catnip.
I loved how Robin Hood is shown as a person. Yes, he’s a symbol. Yes, he’s considered a hero that fights against the awful Sheriff of Nottingham, but he’s also a person with doubts, feelings, and dreams. McKinley does an awesome job of portraying all those feelings to the reader and I honestly love her for that.
This was such a fun read! I wasn’t sure about the start of the story, but I came to like the trick of how Robin is actually not the best archer and definitely enjoyed how Marian was recognized as the best archer of all the outlaws. The story is much more about all the outlaws together as opposed being Robin’s story, but the basic elements are all there: Robin, Marian, Much, Will Scarlett, Little John, Friar Tuck, the evil Sheriff, the evil Guy of Gisbourne. In some ways that was terribly refreshing, because it was a new spin on a familiar tale that still felt like it loved the original tales. I enjoyed the addition of more female characters to the story, and though I cannot love Marian being stabbed by Guy and nearly dying (same, Robin! same!) her survival and arc previous to that make it as a satisfying tale on her front as well. The Robin and Marian of it all was also a quiet joy, familiar in its well worn paths but with understandable and relateable motivations. I was quite sad about Beauty and Sweetheart though 3 Alas! I was as sad for them as much as for Eva, and Sybil who was left behind. The ending was a bit odd to me – something doesn’t feel quite right about the Merry Band disappearing into history by entering King Richard’s service in the crusades – even though most versions of the tales have Robin fighting with King Richard at some point. Perhaps I just want them to continue fighting on, for each other and for the people of Nottingham. It doesn’t spoil the tale though, and it is a sort of HEA in its own way.
The Outlaws of Sherwood has been in my TBR pile since, I think, junior high school. I forgot about it for a while and then rediscovered it at a library book sale a few years ago, and FINALLY got around to reading it just recently. I wish I hadn’t waited so long. I loved this book!
What’s particularly remarkable is how fresh the characters feel. You think you know the story of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, and you assume they’re basically archetypes at this point. But not in McKinley’s hands. I came to care for the entire cast of characters in ways I never anticipated, and while general familiarity with the legend definitely clued me in to certain story beats before they happened, as with most things it’s about HOW they happened… and here the execution is nearly flawless.
In her afterword, McKinley says she didn’t set out to write the definitive version of Robin Hood, but for me at least she has. This book is terrific and I give it my highest recommendation.