I need a Robin Hood retelling to fall in love with because Jenny Elder Moke’s Hood was not it. What breaks my heart the most is that it almost could have been. Ironically, even with some of the monumentally annoying–and unnecessary–changes that were made, Moke’s retelling had a lot of potential. Featuring Robin and Marian’s (spelled Marien in this novel for some reason) daughter as our protagonist, Hood exists as a coming of age story for a young girl who grew up in a priory but doesn’t quite belong there.
Right from the start, Hood asks me to suspend some emotional attachments I have to the story of Robin Hood. The first, and most prominent, is that Marian plays an almost non-existent role in Robin’s life as an outlaw. As a massive fan of the BBC Robin Hood, this was kind of a problem for me. However, since both Robin and Marian are supporting roles in this novel I was able to let it go.
Then there’s the fact that Robin and Marian’s backstory is entirely changed. A few smaller ones exist as well, primarily as character names, from Isabelle–which just doesn’t fit Robin’s daughter in my mind–to Little, who somehow is the son of Alan-a-Dale rather than the more obvious, Little John.
Overall, I began my read genuinely enjoying Hood.
When The Wolf, a man who has had it out for Robin from the beginning, learns of Isabelle’s existence he sets out to use her as a way to trap Robin. It is here that our young teenager’s journey begins. Her world is flipped upside down as her mother sends her from the priory she has known all her life in search of Robin without even bothering to tell Isabelle who this man really is to her.
I loved so much about this book in the beginning. From the general plot, to the writing, to the characters. Adam was utterly endearing, as were Patrick, Helena, and Little. The tale Moke weaves is excellent and engaging. And then we meet Robin.
I almost liked Moke’s Robin.
When we first met Robin, I was actually rather enamored with him. I found myself giggling at several of his comments and antics. He was definitely somewhat like himself. As the story progressed, though, I found myself increasingly disgruntled with the way he was written. Nostalgia took over and this Robin just didn’t match the Robin I knew.
Which, ultimately, is understandable. Everyone who rewrites a Robin Hood story is going to have a different take. This is why there are some Robin Hood films I love and some I absolutely cannot stand. To this day, my favorite Robin remains Jonas Armstrong’s from the BBC series.
So, Robin wasn’t realistic to me. It wasn’t the worst thing and certainly didn’t destroy the story for me. But then it got worse. Robin let Isabelle put herself in danger without having him along for assistance. And then suddenly Marian, who was absent for a portion of the novel, didn’t match the character I’ve loved for a large portion of my life.
The ending was awful.
At the end of the day, this is more opinion than anything else, but I hated the ending. I read an entire novel, most of it good and some of it kind of bad only to leave it with that. And I hated it. I can’t see myself ever reading this book again nor would it be one I would point anyone to, let alone read to a child, in the future to fall in love with and adore the story of Robin Hood.
And I suppose that’s where my disappointment truly lies. Moke wasn’t able to capture the two most titular characters of the entire story, Robin and Marian. While her own characters were brilliant (and I loved Little John, too), what she did to them couldn’t be ignored in favor of that for me.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.