Set in Nottinghamshire in 1194, at 608 pages, this is a thorough telling of how Robin Hood came to be… and the love story of Sir Robert (Robin) of Locksley and Lady Marian of Ravenskeep. In the words of the author, it’s “…a fictional interpretation of imaginary events leading to the more familiar adventures depicted in novels…” And so it is.
The whole cast of characters is included in intricate detail: Alan of the Dales, Little John, Friar Tuck, William Scarlet, one-handed Wat and the boy, Much, to name some—Saxons made outlaw by Norman cruelty, King John’s egregious taxes and the Sheriff of Nottingham’s “justice” fed by his selfish ambition. Richard the Lionheart, though not a character, is mentioned frequently and motivates the stalwart souls to engage in thievery to raise his ransom.
Sir Robert (whose mother called him “Robin”) returns from the Crusades as a broken man, plagued by memories of his captivity with the Saracens. His father, the Earl of Huntington, has plans for his son to take his place as heir to their castle at Locksley. But much has changed in England while Robert was gone and Robert/Robin has little desire to live in the castle.
Self-serving, ambitious Prince John seeks to rein in his brother’s sted and William de Lacey, the Sheriff of Nottingham, seeks more power and wants Marian in his bed. With the death of her father, Marian is now a ward of the Crown and alone at Ravenskeep.
Marian begins as a woman too easily manipulated by the conniving Sheriff, but at times shows a backbone as she learns to stand on her own when she is abducted by a murderer (Will Scarlet who, with good reason, murdered four Normans) and is then rescued by Robin with whom she spends the night in Sherwood Forest. She is ruined, no matter that nothing happened.
I am a fan of Roberson and loved Lady of the Glen. So, I couldn’t wait to devour this one. It’s a bit different and you just need to be ready for that. Unlike Lady, this story, though it kept me turning pages, contains a lot of detail, a lot of perspectives (every character had one) and at times was just a tad repetitive. Still, it’s superb storytelling and it has Roberson’s wonderful characterization and writing.
I love her work and this is an exceptional effort. The sequel is Lady of Sherwood.