The legend of Robin Hood revisited and revised.
Before the action moves to Nottingham and environs, we’re plunged into war in the Holy Land in 1191, where Robin of Locksley serves as a body double for King Richard. After the brief but intense siege of Acre, the center of gravity shifts to Nottinghamshire, where we meet an extended cast of characters we’re familiar with through hundreds of years of legend: Robin, Marion, Will Scarlet, John Little, Alan-a-Dale, Friar Tuck, and many others populate the forest and shire around Nottingham. But in Makaryk’s retelling, the Band of Merry Men is not so merry, for they’re preoccupied with the machinations of Roger de Lacy, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and his sordid companions. Interestingly, Robin only occasionally has center stage here, for the narrative is more interested in power relationships both in Nottingham and among Robin’s band of thieves. Will Scarlet and his lover, Elena, are more active in the fight against de Lacy than Robin Hood, and they’re somewhat contemptuous of Robin’s timidity in the face of brute force. Ultimately, de Lacy is assassinated and replaced by the hapless William of Wendenal, who claims the people “know [he’s] a fraud”—hardly the way to claim a role of either villainy or leadership. The novel occasionally rattles with what seems either odd or jarring word choices. For example, it’s difficult to imagine Robin actually saying “Well damn” or Eric of Felley exclaiming “What the hell is this?” And despite the epic dimensions, there’s surprisingly little payoff in action scenes, for most of the characters are preoccupied with advancing political or power agendas rather than fighting.
A disappointing take on a legend still alive with possibilities.