Well, to be honest, I was thinking that this was going to just be a feminist retelling of Robin Hood and I was ready to dislike it. I got it on a whim. I was pleasantly surprised.
Marian, while being one of the main characters, doesn’t take over the story, and doesn’t act out of character for the age. There are things that make you want to scream, but they are age appropriate. And it’s more than simply Marian’s story. It is a full story of Robin, Little John, even Will Scarlet. The Sherriff of Nottingham, while not being likable, is at least sympathetic. Everyone’s motivations are period correct and they’re good motives too.
I love the fact that the author makes no bones about the fact that Richard the Lionheart liked his boys. But it’s dealt with tactfully. And Robin’s return from the war is dealt with more realistically than you find in most Robin Hood treatments. He was a POW and has PTSD and recurring illnesses from the harsh treatment. (Obviously, it’s not in those terms, but it’s well handled and believable.) This is not some perfect person out of a children’s fable. Everyone is real.
I found the histories that she developed for Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet, Marian, Little John, and others easy to understand. It’s not an easy book to get through, but once you sort out in your head who everyone is (she uses “real” names for them), it starts to flow more easily. While the characters are familiar, the story is not. This is not Robin’s adventures with his Merry Men, this is a returning soldier trying to ransom his king, and the what drives him to do it the way he did, and why he gave to the poor.
This really is an excellent book. I highly reccomend it. And I don’t want to say anymore, because I don’t want to ruin the lovely twists, turns, and period flavor that it has.