November 23, 2015

Review: Shadows of Sherwood

Shadows of Sherwood The first Robyn Hoodlum book
By Kekla Magoon
Available now from Bloomsbury
Review copy

I love the concept of a futuristic Robin Hood story, with many of the main roles being women instead of men.  Robyn Loxley is a girl living in the rich sector of Nott City when her parents are disappeared by the Sheriff (also female in this story).  She barely manages to escape, and has to figure out how to live life on the margins with the help of some others who have been managing: Laurel, Scarlet, and Key.

It's right up my alley, but SHADOWS OF SHERWOOD never quite gelled for me.  Robyn's parents apparently followed a moon lore, an old religion that seems like magic.  It's a good way to add a folklore tie to the story, but I felt like the dystopia and fantasy elements didn't mesh very neatly.  The moon lore mostly seemed like a way for convenient things to happen.

There's also use of villainous point of view, which I find is difficult to pull off well.  The Sheriff's passages give some hints about Governor Crown's dastardly deeds but otherwise add little to the story.  Since this is a Robin Hood retelling it is particularly egregious, because everyone knows where the story is going.  Even younger readers can be assumed to know at least one version of the story, if only the Disney movie.

I think the class conflicts were done well, which is important since they are a central part of the legend.  Robyn has been part of the upper class and is now learning how bad everyone else in the city had it.  Rescuing her parents is a top priority, but she's learning that innocent bystanders could get hurt in her activities against the Sheriff - which leads her to question how she can help.

SHADOWS OF SHERWOOD has some nice heist scenes and an appealing cast, but it left me cold.  I'm just not sure the biggest departures from the traditional story worked for me.  It felt like a separate story welded on that didn't quite fit.  Does Robin Hood need a prophecy?  No, not really.

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