Published by HarperTeen on March 19th 2019
Genres: Action & Adventure, Historical, Retelling
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.
I’ve heard a lot about Meagan Spooner – I know Mel loved Hunted – but I’ve never got around to picking one of her books up. I got a review copy of Sherwood through Edelweiss ages ago, and when I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for earlier this month, I figured now was a good time to pick it up!
Robin of Locksley is dead, and Marian, despite her grief, picks up his bow, dons his still-warm green cloak and pretends to be him. A gender-flipped, feminist Robin Hood retelling is a great premise, and the book started well. After a brief prelude explaining Robin’s death, we move to follow Marian, who is grieving the loss of her partner, worried about the fate of the village of Locksley without Robin Hood and underneath it all, fed up and frustrated with the pre-planned route of her life. That was all enjoyable and got me excited for Marian-as-Robin’s adventures, but it took a long time for those to materialise. One of my biggest issues with Sherwood was pacing: while the beginning of the book reads well, the felt rushed and there are entirely too many pages where not much happens in the middle.
My second issue with Sherwood was the characters – I really needed to love Marian for this to work, but I found her incredibly frustrating. She rails against her position in society and wants to benefit the poor, all of which is good. On the other hand, Marian is, as far as I can tell, apparently better than everyone at everything. She spends the entirety of the book out to prove herself and she seems to look down on everyone, even Robin, her supposed love, bceause she’s better than him at archery, she’s taller, stronger and quicker than him. While we’re told she hates her pre-set role we see very little that really makes us a reader feel any injustice. Her father lets her get away with plenty more than any other woman, and she takes great pains to tell us that she’s ‘not like other girls’ frequently. Her cockiness and her arrogance wouldn’t have been an issue if we’d seen her really back that up with her actions (Celaena in Throne of Glass and Captain Marvel both have an in-your-face arrogance, but both truly do kick ass!). In comparison, Marian’s disguises seem to be thrown together, her plots and scheming are shoddy and poorly thought through, and yet everything just works out for her. It’s neither believable, or satisfying, because it makes the entire rest of the world seem stupid, adding to the sense that Marian thinks she’s better than everyone else while we as readers are left unimpressed by her. We are told often of Marian’s struggles but we don’t see them – the only hardship we see her go through is the loss of Robin, which probably isn’t truly as life-shattering as you might expect the loss of a fiance to be. There’s no emotional rollercoaster here – the ending is exciting but neither the highs or lows were strong enoguh, which means we don’t get that sense of satisfaction of seeing a character stumble, suffer and then push through.
Her father is likeable and their relationship is adorable, but the majority of the rest of the characters fell flat: the merry men are barely in it, and again, seem to just be there to show off Marian’s superiority at times. The character with the most development by far was Guy of Gisbourne, our villain, who would have made a much more interesting main character than Marian. The relationships also didn’t work for me: without commenting on who, there’s a strange kind of love triangle in the book, between Marian, the dead Robin, and the new love interest. Marian’s relationship with Robin certainly doesn’t come across as the stuff of fairytales, so I didn’t feel any particular conflict for her being attracted to someone else, I just didn’t believe the attraction between her and the new love interest – there’s no chemistry and they each treat each other badly.
In terms of writing style, Sherwood isn’t fantasy, it’s got a truly historical fiction feel to it, which was a nice change from my usual reading style. I struggled with the lack of world-building though because aside from Robin’s crusade scene and a few comments from her father about what is expected of women, there’s nothing to indicate where or when we are in the world – you could have very easily told me it was a new world and it would have been just as believable. Despite the lack of world-building, I liked Spooner’s prose, and I’d give another of her books a try. Sherwood has had very mixed reviews, so I’ll probably go back and pick up the more widely appreciated Hunted at some stage.
Buy it? This is a library borrow for me, if I’d get to it at all. If you’re intrigued by Spooner, I’d maybe pick up Hunted first.
In a nutshell: Great premise but sadly just didn’t live up to expectations.