Sunday, 24 April 2011


I believe I've mentioned (several times...) before that I have a bit of a thing for Robin Hood.  I actually intend at some point to write my own version set in a different era to usual (I think Robin Hood would make a good Digger :), and he could be loyal to the 'true king').  At any rate, that was why I finally decided that although the blurb wasn't hugely attractive (I'd rather read about Robin Hood the hero than Robin Hood the terrible bandit, the 'godfather of Sherwood forest') I'd give it a go.

I enjoyed it, but throughout there was a niggling sense that there was something just a little off.  There was nothing really that I could put my finger on and say, no, this is definitely not right, this isn't how people would have acted, but it just didn't quite feel right.  I think part of the problem was the pagan ceremony (unlikely in that period, as the author does acknowledge at the end), and the distaste for the church that seemed to be a common element of every outlaw apart from Tuck (although even he didn't seem hugely enamoured of it).  I'm not saying the church was necessarily perfect, nor am I suggesting that everybody loved it wholeheartedly, but I don't think anti-clericalism was as prominent as what was suggested.  Or perhaps more that where there was criticism of the people of the church, that it would be directed towards individual abusers of the power rather than the church in general.

I rather liked the ending, and the idea that Robin then went onto crusade (which is apparently the subject of a sequel).  It's set in the reign of Henry II--Richard the Lionheart's father.  I'd like to know more about the period.  I think of the different versions I've read, there are two particular 'bits' that stand out to me.  One is the idea of Robin as a rebel against the usurper John rather than Richard.  The other is the tale of Robin's death, where he shoots an arrow and asks to be buried where it lands.

Oh, there was one bit that I wasn't convinced by.  When the queen was referred to as reaching sixty, which was a huge age to live to, I wasn't sure whether that's entirely accurate.  I don't know that we have a lot of information for the period, I do know that the previous conceptions of everyone dying young in the early modern period are somewhat flawed.  Everyone either died very young or tended to live into their fifties/sixties.  But I'm not an expert, so that might be quite accurate.

In short, it's not bad.  But I think the perspective it takes makes it more of a teenage rather than an adult book (although there's some bad language and bits of quite graphic violence).  Because it's from the perspective of a younger lad though, Alan Dale, who joins the band after having been a thief, and it basically charts his growing up against the background of Robin Hood, I would've put it as a teenage one.  There's no reason why adults shouldn't read it (and technically, I'm both an adult and a teenager :) ), and I'd say that readers should probably be about 15 or so before I'd start recommending it (obviously that varies depending on an individual, but I wouldn't have a problem recommending it to my brother who's fifteen if I thought he'd actually read it).

I'll probably read the next one too, when I spot it.  On the other hand, I won't be hunting about for it.  It's a good book, I love Robin Hood (and he's interestingly enough portrayed in this version, though not in a great deal of depth I wouldn't say), and if you see it in a library it's probably worth your time to have a read.

No comments: