Robin Loxley is seven years old when his parents disappear without trace. Years later the great love of his life, Marian, is also taken from him. Driven by these mysteries, and this anguish, Robin follows a darkening path into the ancient heart of Sherwood Forest. What he encounters there will leave him transformed, and will alter forever the legend of Robin Hood.
Robin Hood. I think we all have our personal connections to the legend of Robin Hood, to one of the many versions of it whether it involves talking foxes or men wearing tights. That this book promised to “alter forever the legend of Robin Hood” was enough to grab my attention, when it started getting excellent reviews from bloggers I really trust I knew I absolutely had to read it.
The opening sections of the book introduce Robin and Marian to us, and allow us to spend time with them in order to really get to know them. Twists and turns then pull the characters in different directions with only some overlap, it is here that the action begins to pick up, and then build and build. There’s no shortage of action within the book, it’s well paced and gripping. I think that the slightly slower, quieter, opening to the book works brilliantly well – I felt so connected to the characters as a result and cared so much about how each twist and turn affected them.
Whilst I enjoyed the opening sections of the book I did find myself wondering about the fantasy elements I’d been expecting. These don’t actually kick in until partway through the book, but when they do they’re utterly captivating. Seeing the way these elements grow and evolve throughout the book, and how they affect Robin in particular is fascinating. I think that however much I loved the characters (and believe me I did) it’s seeing how this continues to progress that has me most excited about the fact there are two more books to come.
I really enjoyed these versions of both Robin and Marian, both of them are really strong characters yet they have their flaws ensuring they feel very real. Robin is beset by challenges throughout the book, from being alone at such a young age to much more physical challenges later in the book. Despite all of these he remains focused and driven, he has his goal and keeps pushing at it when I think many would have given up. Marian is present through much of the book, though for large chunks this is through Robin’s drive to find her. When she is present on the page she’s a fascinating character, her presence of mind and planning skills in particular are admirable.
Along with Robin and Marian, various other familiar characters from the Robin Hood legend make appearances in this story. Most notable of these are Will Scarlet and of course the Sheriff of Nottingham. This Sheriff is every bit as cruel and evil as we expect him to be and then some. This book does not shy away from the blood thirsty nature of this cruelty, there are some scenes that made my fairly cast iron stomach turn. That said, they fit the book perfectly and absolutely form a key part of the narrative.
Reading this book completely took over my day. I sat down with my copy first thing in the morning, planning to read a couple of chapters with my morning tea before getting on with all the things I’d planned. Next thing I knew my tea was cold, I’d read 100 pages and was mentally moving things off the day’s to do list to make sure I could finish reading that same day! I took a couple of shortish breaks when I wanted to let some of the book’s action sink in a little but each time was itching to pick the book up and get on with it!
This is a brave, bold re-telling of the Robin Hood story. I absolutely loved it, I’m going to spend the time waiting for the second book trying to persuade as many people as I can to read this one. Strongly recommended!
Shadow of the Wolf is published by David Fickling Books in the UK. My copy of the book is one that was passed on to me by another blogger, thank you Caroline!