This grimdark reimagining of the Robin Hood legend, first in a projected trilogy, takes little from its source but the names and setting.
Robin Loxley is already a consummate woodsman by age 7, when his father abandons him in the Winter Forest. He forms an inseparable bond with Marian, daughter of the local lord, but their idyllic, feral childhood ends with Marian’s abduction by the mysteriously malevolent Sheriff and Robin training for knighthood. An abortive escape attempt leaves Robin blind and Marian imprisoned, but the capricious Forest gods have other plans….Don’t expect roguish folk heroes or merry men in this unrelentingly joyless version, with its lush, sensuous prose and dense, glacial plotting. Rather, brace for bestial squalor and sadism, emphasizing cowardice, hypocrisy, madness, bloodlust, rape, and incest, and lingering on the grisly details of torture and savagery. Characters operate as mere puppets of a narrative propelled by cryptic forebodings and snatches of prophecy. The Sheriff is little more than a generic epitome of evil; his henchmen are mostly sniveling lackeys or psychopaths almost comical in their grotesquerie; Marian, whether as madcap tomboy or assassin mastermind, functions primarily to motivate Robin. Robin himself is strangely aloof and opaque, revealing little personality beyond sullen hate, berserker fury, and a consuming obsession with Marian more creepy than romantic.
Imaginative depth and exquisite craft in service to a bleak and brutal muse. (Fantasy. 14 & up)