As I write this post, I realize what good practice it is to summarize what I’ve been reading in a concise way. While I am good at talking about the book–what I liked, what I didn’t like, characters, motivation, symbolism–I find it a challenge to actually describe what the book is about. I can tell you minute details, but when it comes to overall story arch, it’s more of “Well, how much time do you have?”. I love that my job enables me to keep this skill sharp. I have to keep it pithy and interesting. I only have about 30 seconds to grab a kid’s attention with a summary, otherwise it’s a whole lot of NOOOOOPE.
That being said, I have another book review for you!
I’ve been on a Robin Hood kick as of late. I am totally taken up by the romanticism of honorable thieves, loveable rogues, and rebels with a cause. When you throw in period dress, political unrest, archery and sword fights (potentially on horseback), I am beyond sold. It’s just one of those literary cravings that needs to be indulged.
Luckily, Will in Scarlet, by Matthew Cody, came down from cataloging just the other day. This was one of my orders and I was excited. I mean, who wouldn’t be excited to read an unconventional tale of Robin Hood? It boasted sword fights, chicanery, and a girl dressed as a boy. (I always wanted to be that girl!)
The story starts out with thirteen year old Will Shackley, a little lordling playing Man of the House while his father is away fighting in the Crusades with King Richard. Will isn’t very taken with the governing lifestyle; luckily he is being guided by his Uncle, who is acting regent, so life is soldiering on and there isn’t much burden on young Will’s shoulders.
But, treachery is brewing, both in England and Shackley house. When King Richard, and consequently Will’s father, is captured during the Crusades, Richard’s throne is threatened by clandestine (or not so clandestine) agents who are plotting to seize the throne in the name Prince John. When some of those agents are in Shackley house, and attempt to take Will as a political prisoner, all goes awry: Will’s uncle is killed, his house is seized by the villainous Sir Guy, and Will flees to nearby Sherwood Forest. Exhausted and near death, Will is saved by Much the Miller’s son and nursed back to health. In this band of outlaws, Will encounters the cruel leader Gilbert the White Hand, the enormous John Little, the wise drunk Rob, and of course Much the Miller’s son, who is really Marianna the Miller’s daughter.
However, The Merry Men don’t start out as the fabled heroes of yore. This is the story of the betrayal, growth, and acceptance behind the decision which brings the band around to such noble convictions of robbing from the rich to give to the poor: an act brought about by Will himself after seeing the terrible conditions the people living and working on his family’s land are subjected to.
All in all, I thought it was an interesting story. I was initially really excited about it, not only because it was a Robin Hood story, but because it was by Matthew Cody. I loved Powerless and Super and was looking forward to seeing what was next. Will in Scarlet wasn’t quite as exciting as I was hoping, but Cody did a good job balancing back story with action and intrigue. I liked that there was a strong female character, I liked that Will had flaws and made mistakes that he tried to rectify, and I liked that Rob wasn’t a flawless hero. In fact, no one was flawless, which allowed humanity to shine through. Sir Guy definitely made for one of those hated villains I had no qualms about being killed off. He had absolutely no redeeming attributes. I would have liked a little more back story on him, however, as well as the Sheriff of Nottingham. More of their motivation would have been good. But, I do have to keep in mind that while I might want to see that, it is a kid’s book, and kid’s might not be as interested in those lesser characters.
Overall, I would recommend this book. It was a fun read and an interesting angle to take regarding the Robin Hood legend.
Miss Molly Approved.