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Robin Hood’s Dawn by Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer
My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes
Series: The Robin Hood Trilogy
Date Published: January 16th, 2018
Publisher: Angevin World Publishing
Pages: 432 pages
Synopsis: England, 1154-1194
A kingdom under assault.
A conspiracy born of anarchy.
A hero standing against tyranny.
Falsely convicted of a shocking crime, Robin Fitzooth, the Earl of Huntingdon, finds refuge in Sherwood Forest and becomes Robin Hood.
Leading a band of men against the injustices of a malevolent sheriff and his henchmen, Robin begins to unravel a web of treachery threatening the English royal family.
As shadowy forces gather to destroy the future of a nation, Robin faces deceit, betrayal, and the ravages of war as he defends his king, his country, his people, and the woman he loves from a conspiracy so diabolical, so unexpected, that the course of history hangs in the balance.
From the mists of an ancient woodland, to lavish royal courts teeming with intrigue, to the exotic shores of the Holy Land – Robin Hood leads the fight in a battle between good and evil, justice and tyranny, the future and the past.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
This is a spoiler-free review.
Though I am a massive fan of any and all retellings, this reading experience was a bit different than usual. I have not actually read any Robin Hood stories yet, so I went into this knowing far less about the original source material. Typically, I don’t read retellings when I have such a small amount of knowledge of the story it’s trying to retell. However, after reading the synopsis of this novel, I absolutely could not pass it up—and I am extremely glad that I didn’t, for multiple reasons.
First and foremost, I thoroughly enjoyed my general reading experience. This exciting story and its memorable cast of characters, this fictional adventure embedded in historical fact—it all works together beautifully to create a riveting and witty narrative. Second, it was interesting for me to essentially go in blind, not having any substantial frame of reference. While I have little to no ability to compare and contrast this retelling to anything else, I feel that I have a handle on the way it comes across on its own, without any preconceived ideas of how things should be. That gave me a personally unique perspective compared to what I’m used to when it comes to retellings.
In this novel, we follow Robin Fitzooth—Earl of Huntingdon and an experienced swordsman and archer—during the events leading up to and immediately follow his transformation into the Robin Hood we all know and love. A false murder conviction sends him to Sherwood Forest and into the role of a hero, fighting for justice over a corrupt force within a country at war, all while retaining his loyalty to the king and his own integrity. He risks everything to right the wrongs inflicted on the poor and innocent, and to combat an immoral group of men who are conspiring to destroy a kingdom and threaten to harm those closest to him.
I will go ahead and say now that being unfamiliar with the original stories did not dampen my enjoyment of this novel in any way whatsoever. In fact, I am now even more eager to read those classic tales. Longueville and Plummer give us a well-rounded view of the lives as well as the familial histories of our main characters. We not only experience the adventures of Robin Hood and his men, but also witness the events that brought them together, even reaching back through multiple generations. The comprehensive rendering of fictional events woven into historical ones allows for a deeper understanding of the time period, and subsequently a multi-dimensional narrative.
I have to admit, this ended up being a bit of a slow read for me. This was not at all a reflection of the writing or story quality—rather, it was just my own ability to immerse myself in the world and plot. The text itself flows very nicely and is consistently absorbing, particularly as the action picks up a few chapters into the novel. The world-building is vivid and captures the time period well. Longueville and Plummer clearly put a lot of time and effort into researching the history that sets the stage for this adventure to play out on, and their knowledge causes the story to be even more tangible.
One thing I am unsure of is how exactly Longueville and Plummer split up the task of writing, but nonetheless, I was very impressed with the seamlessness of the text. I didn’t notice any major shifts in the writing or storytelling style, which is no small feat in a dual author narrative. The pair demonstrate a great deal of skill and knowledge in both prose and history, and make for a strong literary duo.
Longueville and Plummer do a fantastic job building three-dimensional characters who are easy to either root for or hate, and are always memorable. The relationships between the characters are beautifully depicted as well, the love story between Robin and Marian being an outstanding example. I am particularly pleased with how they portrayed Marian—while Robin is very protective of her and desperate to save her, she remains very independent, strong, and brave in a horrible situation. Robin’s relationships with the members of his band are another major highlight of this novel.
Overall, I found this to be a solid and well-crafted fantasy. Though it took me a bit longer to get through, I did feel very engaged and invested all the way to the end. Both fans of Robin Hood’s adventures as well as readers new to these characters can easily find enjoyment in this novel. While things do not end in any sort of cliffhanger, I was still left wanting more. I’m eager to see where the story goes, so I will definitely be picking up the next two installments as they come out.