About the Book
Exiled for an unjust crime and forced to use whatever means necessary to survive, a figure of hope emerges from Sherwood Forest.
But what most people know about Robin Hood (the enemy of Prince John and nobleman loyal to King Richard) was an invention of a playwright nearly three hundred years after Robin Hood died.
However, there are older stories about the real Robin Hood.
USA Today bestselling author Kate Danley weaves the original 13th century ballads, Robin Hood traditions passed down through ancient pagan rites, and historical evidence together into a swashbuckling epic fantasy. Enter a world of adventure and chivalry as you discover the man behind the myth, as you meet the Olde Robin Hood.
313 pages (kindle)
Published on September 19, 2018
Buy the book
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: I love me some good Celtic lore. Now, Robin Hood doesn’t fit under that banner. Not really. But I sort of lump him and King Arthur into that category because, you know, geographical location and all that. The thing is, Robin Hood, like King Arthur, has been done before, right? Done and done. So when a book appears that professes to tell a different version of the story, I’m there with bells on.
Enter: Olde Robin Hood.
Olde Robin Hood tells the origin story of the infamous Robin Hood character. The author professes to use old ballads and minstrel tales for the basis of this Robin Hood, which is intriguing, and gives the reader a different, more grounded look at this person who has become so large in lore. Furthermore, her extensive research is obvious as the story unfolds. The world this Robin lives in, is not the least bit glamorous. It’s dirty and painful, where people, if they are lucky, hack a life out of their surrounds and somehow make it work. There are details thrown in here and there about life, like the exhaustion of working a farm, the dangerous of injury and the like that really made this book sing in the worldbuilding
There isn’t a whole lot of magic here, though there are some there is a bit of interweaving with pagan tradition, and some old ways vs. Christian tension as well. The book, instead of being completely rooted in fantasy, seems to weave it into the book in the most subtle of all ways, so it is present if you know where to look. You get more a hint of the fantasy, rather than an overwhelming dose of it.
As an origin story, this was cleverly done. The book opens with a view of Robin’s typical (to the times and place) life. He works hard, loves his family, seems to be just your average kid in the world. When the sheriff murders his father and burns down their farm, sending Robin into exile, he meets up with John Little, a man trying to escape being pressed into soldiery. There, they develop an honorable code wherein it’s decided they will only steal from thieves and liars, and the like.
Most of the characters in this book are ones you’ll expect to see from the stories you know. John Little (you’ll know him as Little John), Maid Marion, and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. Instead, however, of being set during King John’s reign, which most will expect, the author has set this story against Henry III time as king, which was an interesting choice. There are other twists on the tale that show up here or there as well.
Olde Robin Hood tells an interesting coming of age story about a man who is pitted against forces that are beyond his control, and trying to do the best he can despite all odds. This Robin is a bit broodier than most of the Robin Hoods I’ve read before. He spends a lot of time in his own head. He feels profoundly. He is very sad. This isn’t to say there aren’t times when he is happy, but I did feel like this Robin was perhaps a bit darker emotionally than I’ve read in other stories. That’s fine. Actually, I really liked that about the book. The author’s willingness to not only show how these situations would physically impact a kid growing up in the world, but how they would emotionally mark him as well is something I seriously admired.
The other thing I appreciated about this book was how young Robin actually was. We tend to think of Robin Hood as a grown man who is roughing up the forest and causing trouble, but here we have not only an origin story, but a young man growing into adulthood as well. It made me see the pressures of this character, the strains and situations he had to endure, a bit differently. However, this did make the book one of those weird ones where I can’t really tell if its young adult or new adult. Maybe a bit of both. There’s violence and bloodshed which is distinctly PG-13, but the prose and the style itself felt more YA to me. Honestly, the fact I couldn’t pin it down felt true to the story itself. This particular Robin Hood seems to defy convention in numerous ways.
The book started a bit slow, but once the ball got rolling, the story was gripping, and moved at a fast pace. I felt the ending was a bit too simple, and the book itself felt predictable, but it was an incredibly enjoyable yarn. While I don’t think this was the completely groundbreaking origin story I was looking for, I did really enjoy it for what it was: a damn good book.