Published by HarperTeen on March 19, 2019
Source: Publisher, Edelweiss
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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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 adored Spooner’s previous stand-alone book, Hunted (you can find my review here!), but Sherwood fell a bit flat. I wish I liked it more, but for every good thing about it, there were two disappointing aspects. Honestly, reading this book had its ups and downs. Sometimes I would be hesitantly surprised at how something came out, but most of the times I was left disgruntled and distrusting. These feelings vacillated throughout the book, but overall my biggest problem was that I went in thinking it would be something it wasn’t. And that’s what I would let other readers be hesitant of.
This is a Maid Marian-driven book. And yes, from the blurb, you would guess that. But it’s more about her self-discovery, doubts, and worth than it is about her exploits, and a lot of important conversations came too late into the book. (And it’s long!) For some reason, there’s a heavy focus on the long-dead Robin as a character rather than his actions and legacy (truly, I could not explain what made him so well-liked for people to wish him a hero revived). There was the whole Merry Men cast of Will Scarlet, Little John, and others. There were even different roles that girl characters played in the book, which I really appreciated. The adventures were fun but you know what?
I could never get on Marian’s side.
Her reasoning was just, but in a naive way. She’s capricious and unruly, guided by emotions and a strong dose of Special Snowflakeness. And that’s awesome, really- she shows girl power and strength and cleverness and it is rivaled by pretty much no one else in the book. However, my heart went out to the only person who dared defy her logic as Robin Hood, aka who she treats with disdain and/or pity in almost every scene but like the last 25% of the book, aka the damn love interest. Now isn’t that romantic?
I am the Lady Marian. I am a free woman and I am loved by Robin of Locksley. I don’t shatter for someone like Guy of Gisborne.
There were certainly good parts to the story in terms of empowerment, adventure, and exploration of the law (as well as rewriting the legend of Robin Hood), but Marian was simply too much for me. Flawed, yes. I love flawed characters. However… bringing in important discussions without wanting to change your ways and ignoring other opportunities to save your people, continually being reckless at the expense of others who are in need? Not my jam.
So let’s talk about Robin. I do understand that you need to develop his character in order to carry on his legacy – I really do – but there was way too much attention on him in the book, and all of it was telling and not showing. We’re told how people loved him. We’re told how he is the master of strategy and whatnot. But what we’re shown? This regular guy who was put on a pedestal. It’s an interesting dynamic, but I was tired with how much page time was put into him and Marian’s relationship. Also, I forgot the fact that Robin Hood takes place during the crusades, but in Sherwood Robin is killed during one of the battles in the Holy Land and that didn’t quite sit well with me. For those who don’t know this particular time period, the crusades were the Christians (Robin’s people) vs. the Muslims, and it was a religious war. So when I notice POC (no matter how unseen they are on the page) referred to on the side as “godless infidels,” by the main character? Not. My. Style. It’s definitely a minor complaint – and some parts of the battle were nicely discussed with Guy, who fought in it – but it’s noticeable from the beginning and I couldn’t set it aside.
Masquerading as Robin… the idea was mad – madder than Will and his ghosts.
Marian steadied her fingers and tucked the edge of Robin’s cloak out of sight.
Madness, then, she thought with a grin. And then, missing the feel of wool on her fingertips, she thought, Robin would have loved it.
And now, we get to the romance. WHAT romance? For the majority of the book – we’re talking 80% – Marian only feels disdain, dislike, and disgust for Guy of Gisborne, who is supposed to be the love interest. And while he reminded me of Gaston from BATB in the first 10% (I honestly have no idea why – it must be the “G’s”), I genuinely liked him as a character and thought he didn’t deserve how Marian treated him. Gisborne is just a commoner trying to establish his place in life, despite the fact that he grew up with the Sheriff. Marian doesn’t like him because he’s vying for Robin’s title after his death. She pities him. She’s disgusted by him. The majority of their interactions consist of insipid dialogue and Marian being fake. She doesn’t give him a CHANCE. The fact that she’s masquerading as Robin of Hood while he’s trying to catch her is interesting, but I think it could have been done better. This wasn’t just an antagonistic romance, it was just plain antagonistic. He had some stellar dialogue points towards the end of the book, but it was too little, too late. Marian’s behavior towards him made me so frustrated, and if she spent more than a couple of paragraphs actually being honest with him, I would have appreciated this “romance” more. Also the fact that Marian’s still hung up over Robin and the author tries to write those feelings away with a strong basis but weak execution. Lots of good plot points needed to have been followed up in this book, and they weren’t.
I would recommend this book for readers who know what they’re getting into. Expecting a band of outlaws with camaraderie and kinship? Yes, but it revolves around Marian. Looking for lots of action and female ass-kicking? It’s there, but mostly for Marian. Ready for a hate-to-love romance that will make your heart flutter? Actually… no. Marian’s a fine character, but I would have liked more relationship developments with other characters (and not just her maid Elena, who had pretty good characterization). She learned, yes, but not everything was resolved the way I would have liked to have seen it and unfortunately that made me enjoy the book less. Maybe fantasy readers will like this one, but I would let readers come into it with caution.
Robin Hood wasn’t just a man, or the ghost of one. He was a hero. A symbol.
Trigger/Content Warnings: mild violence, death of a loved one, grief
Rating: 2 out of 5
Thank you Edelweiss and Harper Collins for the review copy!