Though narrated without sufficient brio by Robin Hood himself, this batty historical romp is an inventive exercise in let's-pretend. Robert, Earl of Locksley, has many roles here: cryptologist for crusading Richard I; protector of Richard's young fiancÃ‰e (Robin's lifelong love); rescuer of Richard from the Austrian emperor's house arrest; unofficial negotiator, persuading the Pope to lift England's excommunication; and patriotic murderer--of King John's nephew (a favor to Eleanor of A.), and of King John himself (a favor to England). How, then, one might ask, did Robin have time to sport with his merry men in Sherwood Forest? Well, this less-than-idyllic interlude comes about here after Robin, sent home from the Crusade to spy for Richard, discovers his family murdered and his ancestral home destroyed--all because Prince John has sold the Locksley title to nefarious Fitz Stephen and his mad wife Maud de Caux, who's about to force Maid Marion (Robin's sister!) to wed one of her sons. So it's Ho! for the Forest--for a spate of murder, theft, and a little camaraderie: the band here is a lot less than merry, not to mention a lot less than sanitary. (""Eyes gleamed behind filthy, shaggy hair."") Marion is released after some gala arson, a spearing, and a kidnapping. Robin moves on to a new role as ""Daniel Delore""--merchant and inn/brothel lord. And finally he'll return to action when his Jewish friend, banker Jacob Mancere, needs his life saved and an assassination performed. Lots of gory action, forthright dickering with the mighty, history manipulated like silly putty--but the potentially rollicking material (ah, what Flashman's Fraser could have done with it!) never quite takes off in Chase/Robin's conversational narration.