3 out of 4 stars
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The story of Robin Hood is certainly not new. It has been told in many different ways by many different people. One of my favorite parodies is the movie Robin Hood: Men in Tights. The author herself was influenced by the BBC series on the subject. It was with these thoughts rolling through my head that I went into Sherwood Untold wondering if this one would take its place in a long line of retellings or fall far short of the mark.
Christine Hawk is a barrister (lawyer for those of us in the US) working at Laferi & Partners. She and her boyfriend, Mark, are about to announce their engagement to the world. He is the boss's son and a successful doctor. On the day of the announcement, she finds him sleeping with another woman. She calls to let her mentor and boss know that she will not be marrying his son. Needing to clear her head, she goes for a horseback ride at a nearby stable.
During her ride, she sees a double rainbow with a bright light seemingly coming out of the middle of a huge tree. It beckons her closer, and she cannot help but to follow. Like Alice in Wonderland, she falls down a sort of rabbit hole and wakes up in darkness. She finds herself in the year 1192 in Nottingham. Sir Guy of Gisborne finds her and brings her to the Sheriff of Nottingham. What is she doing there? How will she survive this brutal time when people were hanged for petty theft? Will she avoid the dungeons and the gallows and find friends? Will she ever find her way back to her own time?
From the very beginning, the author managed to draw me into the story. It starts out in modern times, but I wanted to see what Christine would do, how she was betrayed. When she goes back in time, the mystery only deepens. I was on the edge of my seat wondering about the adventures she would have. Knowing about the classic tale, I wanted to see how Ms. Crawford would portray Robin Hood, Lady Marian and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
This version of the classic is focused more on Christine and Sir Guy of Gisborne, so Robin of Locksley plays a secondary role. Most of the versions I have seen don't talk much about Sir Guy. While he is on the side of evil as the Sheriff's deputy, the author humanizes him in such a way as to make the reader sympathize with all that he's been through. To me, this is the mark of a gifted writer. The secondary characters were fascinating to watch as well. Lady Marian comes across as a whiny little girl. Each character had a life of their own which helped me to stay invested in the story.
So the question is does it live up to its namesake? I believe it does; but, while I have seen (and read) several different versions of Robin Hood, I am not an avid follower. I thought it was nice that the story is complete in and of itself and ends in a fairly satisfying way as the author has planned follow-ups to this story. I would be very curious to read these as I would love to see some of the other characters from this story come to the forefront; I want to see which person she chooses to portray next.
The only drawback I found was the multiple grammatical errors throughout the story. Mostly these consisted of missing words, though there were other errors in punctuation or word substitution as well. A is frequently missing before few as in saying few trees instead of a few trees. Once I truly got into the story, these were easy to overlook, but the book could use one more round of editing to iron out these few last errors.
Overall, the story was fun to read, and the characters came to life. I was fascinated by the tale and look forward to reading the next in the series. For those reasons, I rate Sherwood Untold 3 out of 4 stars. I would say this is a highly successful take on Robin Hood and recommend it to all who love that story or historical fiction in general. Nevertheless, an understanding of the original tale is not necessary to enjoy this book. I would have to recommend this for mature readers, though, as there are some explicit scenes contained in the story.
Sherwood Untold: The Journey
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