As an avid lover of all things Robin Hood, it’s really no wonder that I became desperate for a copy of Sherwood the very moment I learned about it. This book has been on my radar for a while now and when I finally had it in my hands I devoured it quickly. Sherwood is a brilliant and impressive retelling of the classic Robin Hood story, with Maid Marian at the front. Robin of Locksley has died in the Holy Lands fighting for King Richard, leaving his fiancée behind in a world filled with injustice. The poor suffer under the reign of Prince John and when her maid’s brother faces the gallows, Marian does the only thing she can think of at the time; she dons a cloak that once belonged to Robin and steals away into the woods to save him.
Only, she comes away creating a legend.
As Marian takes the mantle of Robin Hood, fighting for the poorest of England, Spooner spins a beautiful feminist retelling of one of the best stories I’ve ever been told. I have a very close spot in my heart for the characters who have been adapted time and time again. I’ve fallen in love with them on numerous occasions and I was thrilled to be able to fall in love with them here. And fall in love I did. Marian was fantastic, everything I could have imagined and more. Her motivations and her development were superb and she was excellently written.
Every moment reading this book had me at the edge of my seat, eagerly turning page after page to get more of the story. Spooner’s Robin Hood is one you love quickly, woven with beautifully poetic writing that manages to capture and portray each character with exceptional accuracy. All the way up until the last 15% of the book. Through all the things that I loved about this novel, there are two very glaring pieces of it that turned this book into a disappointment. It truly kills me to have been so deeply unhappy with the way this book ended, largely because Spooner’s Sherwood was initially so fantastic.
But there’s one thing you cannot do in a Robin Hood retelling and that is to sully the name of Robin Hood. And the very moment Spooner began to imply that Robin of Locksley never could have become Robin Hood, that he had not been who Marian believed he was, and that Marian did not know him as well as she thought she did, that is precisely what Spooner did. And it broke my heart.
The second mistake Spooner made with her retelling was the romance she included in the book where there should have been none. Not only did she break apart the ship of lifetimes in her own unacceptable way of casting doubt on the relationship between Marian and Robin—which upset me greatly—she had Marian fall in love with someone whose character was never meant to be seen as good. This character was changed in ways I could not agree with and to my great horror, I found myself rolling my eyes during his speech at the end. It all seemed so ridiculous and unrealistic. It changed the personalities of two characters in ways that never would have made sense to who they are. And it created a massively unnecessary romance.
Which is just deeply unfortunate in a feminist Robin Hood because all of the groundwork and development Marian made suddenly became vaguely moot as a result. Marian had not needed a romance, not needed a man to be the best Robin Hood. And I loved her until she fell apart as a result of this. I hated the changes that were made to the character in order for Marian to love him. It felt so disingenuous to his nature and alternately felt quite disingenuous to Marian’s.
This book could have been a thousand times better. And for a while there, it really was. But the ending ruined it all and while I still believe this book deserves four stars for its writing quality and the first portion of the novel, I’m docking one for that awful ending and subsequent romance. Though I did quite love the way Spooner created an opening for the legend that Robin Hood eventually became, for now, I think I’ll go on to pretend that this book had an entirely different end.
I was provided a free copy of this book via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.