Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 9th June 2020
I was eager to snap this up when I saw it on Netgalley, because Robin Hood stories are kind of a Thing for me. I did a module on Robin Hood stories during my BA, wrote a handful of my essays about it, and have always rather enjoyed Robin Hood stories. (Starting in childhood with Enid Blyton’s Tales of Daring Adventure, which is the only book handed down from both my parents. I believe I still have both their copies, with Dad’s in a better state and retaining its dustcover. I have also frequently heard the stories of my mother as a child deeply concerning her parents by sobbing inconsolably over the death of Robin Hood.)
So, this fairly gentle story fits right into that warm and cosy spot in my heart. Robin and Marian are married and respectable, with three children; it’s sort of inserted into real history, with King John signing the Magna Carta in part because of Robin’s insistence and William Marshall showing up to say hi. The story also tries for realism in discussing their relationship, Marian’s pregnancies, the way they fit into the world.
At the start of the novella, they’re returning from London, with Robin having decided that their eldest daughter will marry — and Marian isn’t happy. It carries on in this rather domestic way, until the children are kidnapped by a band of men… and a much-missed friend, long absent from Robin’s circle after his first decision to respect King John’s succession to the throne, witnesses the kidnapping and rushes to Robin for help.
Things move a lot faster at that point, and from the blurb it feels like that’s meant to be the centre of the story. It doesn’t feel like it, though, and I was surprised to learn there’s meant to be another linked book. I was happier with it as a sort of coda to the Robin Hood story; as the introduction to something more, it actually feels lacking for me, because I didn’t connect to the original characters in that way. I thought it was about Robin’s group, his relationship with Marian, and how an outlaw steps out of legend and becomes part of the world. I’m less interested in reading for the kids — I just liked seeing the old gang come back together.