As the gates of Ravenskeep swing open and a young woman flees into the primeval depths of Sherwood Forest and into the arms of the man she loves, a saga of exceptional power and remarkable passion begins...
He is Sir Robery Locksley--the heroic nobleman who has turned his back on all he knows to embark on a dangerous quest for justice in an England torn apart by treachery, betrayal and war.
She is Lady Marian of Ravenskeep--the proud, defiant knight's daughter who leaves her sheltered life behind to join a shadowy band of outlaws who follow no law but their own.
Robin Hood and Maid Marian--Their love has belonged to legend for centuries, and now it belongs to us all, stunningly brought to life by the masterful pen of a truly gifted storyteller. Against a medieval tapestry of color and pageantry, Jennifer Roberson has woven a rich, sweeping tale of a woman whose courage and passion could forever alter the destiny of that mist-shrouded land of lore we know in our hearts and see in our dreams...
Over a 40-year career (so far), Jennifer Roberson has published four fantasy series, including the Sword-Dancer Saga, Chronicles of the Cheysuli, the Karavans universe, and urban fantasy series Blood & Bone. Other novels include historicals LADY OF THE GLEN, plus two Robin Hood novels, LADY OF THE FOREST, and LADY OF SHERWOOD.
New novels are percolating in her always-active imagination.
Hobbies include showing dogs, and creating mosaic and resin artwork and jewelry. She lives in Arizona with a collection of cats and Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
It’s been ages since I last encountered something so tone-deaf to the natural cadence of English. Five pages in and I burst out laughing at this:
The sheriff raised a single eloquent eyebrow. “Did he teach you that? Did he also teach you the sword?” She knew precisely what he meant, though not long ago she had known nothing at all of hardship or the harsh argot of such men. Now she knew, and spoke it, answering him in kind with cool self-possession, fully cognizant of what admission could mean. “The fleshly sword, yes…” (5)
THE FLESHLY SWOOOOOORD!
Not the most auspicious opening, Roberson, if your heroine is faced with attempted assault and I’m sniggering at your hackneyed prose.
Yet I sallied forth, undaunted, through the twisting byways and knotted paths of Roberson’s attempts at syntax, until by the end I was left wondering if she had ever sat through an English class in her life:
“Gore-clotted tusks slashing, trying to rend fragile flesh....Beyond, he heard the hounds, most eloquent in their yearning to answer unreasoning instinct, born and bred; the duty trained into them: to find and rend the boar.” (87)
I assume Roberson’s fondness for “eloquent” is born out of longing for something she will never have.
“He had not expected to sleep, but at some point near dawn the enemy Exhaustion had wielded the sword of a Saracen and defeated his attempt to remain awake.” (264)
Oooooh, but was it a FLESHLY sword? *bow-chicka-bow-wow*
“She had lied to him: ‘I am not what you need,’ she had said, meaning not good enough, too innocent, not able to ease his needs. But she was wrong. She was what he needed; a woman to ease his pain, ease his needs, give him back what he had lost.”(370)
So apparently, in the absence of quality psychotherapy services, PTSD can be cured with a good round of boinking. Someone should let the VA know.
“DeLacey stood at an angle to Marian, shoulder turned obliquely....In no way did he indicate the intensity of his anticipation as the moment drew nearer. He wanted to shout aloud exultantly, crying his jubilation, because to him it was as gratifying as carnal congress to witness a plan come together.” (415)
Now there’s an image I’ll never get out of my head.
There were times when I’m not even sure Roberson herself knew what she was trying to say:
“[The alleyway] stank of refuse and ordure, damp and slick underfoot, treacherous to a man more accustomed to stone floors beneath a lord’s high roof than a ceiling of stars overhead.” (258)
Yes, I can see why a man accustomed to stone floors would have difficulties traversing the ceiling of stars overhead. *cues Lionel Ritchie*
“Better to itch than to die for want of a scratch, [thought the sheriff].” (534)
Truly, it is better to itch than to die for not scratching the itch. Though Roberson will have to explain to me how you couldn’t have it both ways.
“The earl held himself very erect, superficially a younger man, until one looked farther and saw that he was old.” (555)
And he was old, except for superficially, where he was a younger man than the older man he actually was. Thanks for clearing that up, Roberson.
And of course there were moments when I had to wonder which dictionary Roberson was thumbing her way through as she wrote this:
“Then, as de Pisan waved him on, he crossed into the chamber and came face-to-face for the first time in his life with [Prince John,] England’s sanguine savior.” (67)
I’m trying to think of another modern text where “sanguine” was used to describe a personality and did not mean “optimistic.” Because since that’s how we use the word now, that’s the first connotation to come to mind. A competent writer would be aware of this and would have gone with something like “sanguinary,” but it seems Roberson didn’t want to begrudge her readers a few lexical brainteasers scattered throughout her opus.
“Matilda’s eyes were crouched in creases more pronounced in her weakness, though her color was mostly restored.” (127)
It’s couched, Roberson. Unless her eyes have actually sprouted limbs and are lying prone behind her wrinkles.
Which- not gonna lie, I would read that novel.
But seriously - vocabularies are like fleshly swords, Roberson. No one is impressed with the size when it’s laughably clear you don’t know how to use it.
“The sun edged down the sky to dip below the canopied screen of overlapping treetops, filtered now through boughs and branches in a counterpoint of dark and light, a leafy chiaroscuro.” (203)
I could comment here on the brilliance of describing a medieval forest using an art form that wasn’t invented until 500 years later, but I’d rather try my own hand at it instead:
The sun glinted off the edge of his scimitar like streetlights off the curve of a Mercedes C-Class.
The thundering clanks of longswords striking chain mail filled his ears like a tumult of a bullet train surging into the station.
I think you may be on to something, Roberson.
But you know, every historical novel has its blips, its tiny anachronisms that tumble through the cracks as you’re frantically bolstering the crumbling architecture of your storyline. It doesn’t mean you’re a lousy author, right? Surely even the best authors are entitled to at least one mist-
“The oil lamp cast a wan, ocherous glow, painting the royal pavilion in a chiaroscuro…” (327)
Roberson's retelling of the legend of Robin Hood will please all fans of the classic tale. It doesn't re-imagine or mess with the characters or their motivations - the people here are familiar friends and enemies - but their story is fleshed out to a grandly epic 600+ pages of enjoyment. (And there's a sequel, too! (Lady of Sherwood)).
I felt the book was influenced by the original BBC Robin Hood series (from the 80's) as well as older version of the stories. The books strikes an excellent balance between realistic and idealized depictions of the people and their times, and between romance and action - it's definitely a romantic novel, largely from Marian's point of view (as one might guess from the title), but it never gets too bogged down in romance (ignore the horrible edition of the book with the embarrassing romance-novel cover art!)
LADY OF THE FOREST is my second favorite Robin Hood retelling, after The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley. I've talked about Roberson's Sword-Dancer saga here before, but her historicals are written in such a markedly different style from her SF/F that they deserve their own discussion. I also discovered her through this book and will always be glad I picked it up that day, despite how thick it was, and despite the cover featuring Marian's neverending braids. Actually, I think it's quite a pretty cover. I love the font, the banner-style heading, and the general composition. But those braids...
Marian of Ravenskeep has lost her father. Cut down while on Crusade, all she got was a letter informing her of his death. No explanation. No words of condolence. Merely the fact that he is gone. And then Robert of Locksley returns home from Crusade. Marian attends the lavish homecoming the earl his father throws for him in the hopes that Sir Robert knew of her father and might have some bit of information to give her about how he died. The moment they lock eyes, though, she knows it is hopeless. The young man she remembers as a solitary, withdrawn youth from her childhood, has grown into a forbidding man with no time for pleasantries. No longer the innocent young man she remembers, his eyes are black with shadows. Haunted by the atrocities of war, by his years of captivity within Saladin's walls, Robin of Locksley has not one ounce of available energy left to shoulder the burden of a young woman's grief. Until her face breaks through the fog of indifference he surrounds himself with and he remembers the promise he made and the message he failed to deliver.
Roberson wrote this Robin Hood retelling, for all intents and purposes, as a prequel to the standard tale. The subtitle reads, "A Novel of Sherwood," and it is apt as the meat of this story follows all the traditional central players as they first meet, find their way to Sherwood, and become the people they need to be to need Robin. To want to join him in Sherwood and take their lives in their hands by defying the Sheriff of Nottingham. Throughout the story the viewpoint shifts between each and every one of the major players (and a few minor ones to boot). But Marian's story remains the focus and I will always be fond of it for that fact alone. This Marian displays quite a bit of growth from beginning to end. She is determined to "grow a spine," as she puts it, and I love how she accomplishes her goal. And how she and Robin fit so well. The Robin of Locksley we meet here is a more brittle Robin than you often find. He has suffered and fought and killed on behalf of the king he loves and when he is returned to England he has little idea how to act, how to take up the reins of his life again. Where he is weak, Marian is strong and vice versa. Every character is tweaked a little from their more familiar forms in this version and you may be surprised at the treatment of some of the old favorites, including Will Scarlett and Much the miller's son. There is honor and betrayal, greed and hope and certainly no shortage of characters to hate. But there are more to love. This is an earthier, much blunter take than many I've read and the harsh realities of rank, position, gender, and power don't get the glossy treatment. But by the end Marian is chock full of spine and Robin is a hero. This is a favorite re-read of mine. I never fail to find it refreshing and perfectly enjoyable. Recommended for fans of historical fiction, historical romance, and (naturally) Robin Hood.
Authors who care deeply about historical accuracy are often faced with a dilemma: to relate documented facts in a cut-and-dried fashion that quite often harms the story's dramatic potential, or to use history like a crazy quilt, stitching together truthful passages with the fictional ones. I have employed the latter method. [-from Roberson's afterword]
This is an extremely wordy & slow-moving novel, but ultimately worth the effort. If pressed for a succinct analogy, I'd call Lady of the Forest an unholy love child of the Robin of Sherwood tv series, Batman Begins, & romantic angst-fest The Dark Lady.
Much like the relationship between Eaters of the Dead & Beowulf, Lady of the Forest is Roberson's attempt at a plausible prequel behind the generic Robin Hood mythos. Taking a leisurely 700-page stroll through a couple weeks of the characters' lives, she outlines a possible genesis of their group dynamics & individual backstories while trying to account for social strata & historical context. As with Crichton's interpretation of the Beowulf legend, Roberson theorizes that Robin, Marian, Will, Tuck, & the others wouldn't spring to life fully-formed -- so where COULD they come from?
Unhappy beginnings, that's where -- lots of death & strife & mucky ickiness that is the medieval era. All these people have experienced Norman abuse to one degree or another; it's not a cheery "what-ho, what-ho!" ballad of merry ol' England, & all are unjustly accused of being worse than what they are (yes, even Will Scarlet -- whose prickly temper is absolutely dead on Ray Winstone's RoS portrayal). PTSD runs rampant, & nobody is immune...except perhaps Sheriff DeLacey & Prince John, but that's nothing new. What is new is Robin swearing in Arabic -- a nasty habit from his time in Holy Land captivity -- and sawing the legs off wild boar because he saw Marian's father butchered by Saracens. Or Will Scarlet murdering four guards with his bare hands after they rape his wife to death. Or the Sheriff coldly plotting a fake marriage so he can bang Marian & force her into the real deal. (And what about Robin's guilt that he's not gay & can't help his King assuage those oh-so-important masculine needs, even though Richard desperately wants him to? Highly entertaining quandry, that one.)
These are unhappy people trying desperately to make something positive out of a miserable time in history. Their "primary source" (i.e. Alan of the Dales) is an active participant in the novel, & like Ibn in Eaters of the Dead, he's aware of the potential in what's unfolding. But that doesn't make it any easier to survive when faced with the political agendas, economic strife, & daily hazards of the era. There's no guarantee of a happy ending; even Richard's pardon doesn't mean squat in the long term, though the book manages to end on a somewhat upbeat note.
I wavered on the rating for this one. It's a true 4.5 star book, but ultimately I think it deserves the higher mark. While a few scenes bordered on tedious, the characters kept me invested -- likewise, the melodramatic bits compensated for times when the action fell off. The writing style is highly detailed & verges on purple prose, but it's not a romance novel. I'd call it literary fiction with a folkloric panorama. It's an impressive piece of derivative fiction, in any case -- and I scent a healthy dose of Robin of Sherwood fangirling, which is always a good thing.
Oof! I read this book at least twice when I was a teenager (thanks to the San Diego library system) and found the different take on Robin Hood fascinating. I did not enjoy rereading this as an adult. Roberson tries an interesting take on the legend based in a realistic medieval setting, but nothing can make up for the fact that everyone is madly in love with Marian. That drives the entire plot, and as a result there are a lot of men spending a lot of time thinking about how hot she is. I almost empathize with Eleanor DeLacey. Could everyone just get over it?
The whole thing feels on the wrong side of titillation; there's a brutal assault referenced several times, and everyone is very worried about despoilment to the point of parody . I liked the Robin backstory, but the man obviously needs a trauma specialist and not . All of it feels very gritty for the sake of being gritty. I got tired of the constant lusting and scheming and skimmed the last 200 pages or so.
I think Sherwood by Meagan Spooner might be my favorite recent Robin Hood book, but honestly the genre is severely lacking given the source material. I don't think Lady of the Forest will make it to another reread.
How did this book escape my notice for so long? I am a fan of Jennifer Roberson and have read most of her other books. Truth is, I was aware of this book since it was released in 1992. I really think it was the girly romance cover art that made me balk at reading it. But girly romance this is not. I compare to Pillars of the Earth or even Game of Thrones for writing style and historical depth. A very well written book on Robin Hood. And other than Stephen Lawhead's HOOD, this is the only other novel on Robin Hood I have read. BTW this Lady of the Forest way better than Lawhead's take. Kinda reminds me of the old BBC/Showtime series about Robin Hood from the 1980s. This was a book I started, not expecting much. Fare exceeded my expectations. Very Cool. I liked the fact that this book deals with Post Traumatic Stress...as most of Robin Hoods actions in this novel are a result of the horrors he saw during the crusades. Loved that Roberson incorperated all the Robin Hood characters, Little John, Will Scarlett, Much the Miller's Son, Adam Bell, Alan a Dale, Friar Tuck, Maid Marian, Sherrif Of Nottingham, Guy of Gisbourne, and a host of others that she just made up/invented to round out the story. The Sherrif's daughter Eleanore is a personal fave. Just outstanding.
An excellent re-telling of the Robin Hood myth, with more emphasis on his motivations behind becoming an outlaw rather than the actual acts of stealing. Despite what the new cover looks like, this is not a mere romance novel. It's a very detailed historical fiction that Jennifer Roberson did a lot of research to make it feel real, and it shows. Of course, it's not going to be the exact same Robin Hood myth that people are familiar with, considering there's so many versions of the story floating around that contradict each other, but she does an excellent job of making a believable version of what really could have happened.
The characters are all very well fleshed-out, especially Marian (who the story mostly seems to focus around--it does change perspectives regularly, but overall her voice seems to be the strongest). Rather than the stereotypical "strong woman" most historical fiction stories seem to inject, she actually feels like she could have lived in medieval England, as do all the characters. She's a woman trapped by the times, but who does everything in her power to get herself away from the men trying to force her into marriage.
Definitely recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, especially involving medieval England. And, of course, those that like a bit of romance to spice up their myths.
An Opus Telling of the Robin Hood Legend, Rich in Historical Detail
Set in Nottinghamshire in 1194, at 608 pages, this is a thorough telling of how Robin Hood came to be… and the love story of Sir Robert (Robin) of Locksley and Lady Marian of Ravenskeep. In the words of the author, it’s “…a fictional interpretation of imaginary events leading to the more familiar adventures depicted in novels…” And so it is.
The whole cast of characters is included in intricate detail: Alan of the Dales, Little John, Friar Tuck, William Scarlet, one-handed Wat and the boy, Much, to name some—Saxons made outlaw by Norman cruelty, King John’s egregious taxes and the Sheriff of Nottingham’s “justice” fed by his selfish ambition. Richard the Lionheart, though not a character, is mentioned frequently and motivates the stalwart souls to engage in thievery to raise his ransom.
Sir Robert (whose mother called him “Robin”) returns from the Crusades as a broken man, plagued by memories of his captivity with the Saracens. His father, the Earl of Huntington, has plans for his son to take his place as heir to their castle at Locksley. But much has changed in England while Robert was gone and Robert/Robin has little desire to live in the castle.
Self-serving, ambitious Prince John seeks to rein in his brother’s sted and William de Lacey, the Sheriff of Nottingham, seeks more power and wants Marian in his bed. With the death of her father, Marian is now a ward of the Crown and alone at Ravenskeep.
Marian begins as a woman too easily manipulated by the conniving Sheriff, but at times shows a backbone as she learns to stand on her own when she is abducted by a murderer (Will Scarlet who, with good reason, murdered four Normans) and is then rescued by Robin with whom she spends the night in Sherwood Forest. She is ruined, no matter that nothing happened.
I am a fan of Roberson and loved Lady of the Glen. So, I couldn’t wait to devour this one. It’s a bit different and you just need to be ready for that. Unlike Lady, this story, though it kept me turning pages, contains a lot of detail, a lot of perspectives (every character had one) and at times was just a tad repetitive. Still, it’s superb storytelling and it has Roberson’s wonderful characterization and writing.
I love her work and this is an exceptional effort. (The sequel, Lady of Sherwood, is sitting on my “to read” shelf.)
A bit of a darker version of the Robin Hood legends 3.5 stars. In retelling the standard Robin Hood story, the author took an interesting tact and cast him as tortured from his experiences in the violence of the Crusades, sort of a medieval post traumatic stress disorder. Of course, sparks fly when he meets Marian, who the most evil Sheriff of Nottingham also desires.
No big surprises, and the usual suspects and characters as we're used to in the Robin Hood legends. I have to agree with a couple of other reviewers who found the author's constantly changing viewpoints in every chapter distracting, as it did affect the flow of the story line. I also agree with another reviewer who found Marian having to constantly pick up her kirtle when they were walking through the forest and Robin's always raising his loquacious eyebrows got to be a bit old after a while. Where was the editor? And what was with a knight who served alongside Richard The Lionheart doing having to have Marion jump in and save him again and again? Also, the darker tone the author took with Robin's experiences in the Crusades affected his way with the "merry men" who weren't quite as merry as you see in other versions of this legend.
All in all with those minor quibbles aside an entertaining, interesting read. I had a hard time putting it down until the end, but not one I'll keep on my bookshelf to read again and again, nor is it a book that will stick with me long after I've returned it to the library. Side note, a very entertaining trilogy loosely based on the Robin Hood legends by Marsha Canham is worth looking into. Although much more romance oriented, the author's tongue is firmly planted in her cheek throughout the series and is great fun. Through a Dark Mist, In the Shadow of Midnight and The Last
Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson is the first of my goalwar this year - to read the oldest books on my shelf, or rather, the ones that have been in my life the longest that remain unread. I think I purchased this before moving out of my parents' home and I have since been living on my own well over a decade. Yeah. I've probably owned this book fifteen years. It's ostensibly a book about Maid Marion (spelled Marian in this version) and Robin Hood. It centers on Marian in a way that reminds me of Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon. That said, all the femme-centric plot lines in the world couldn't make me get into this book.
I actually started this New Year's Eve (forgoing the celebrations I promised myself for a night of laze) and somewhere along the way I decided that I was over it. It's a big book, so that doesn't help. The daunting near eight hundred page length of it is largely what kept me from starting it to begin with. Not that long length books frighten me, I just hadn't been in the mood for it (for fifteen years). However, the first hundred pages (or near about) are devoted to one single night... to one party introducing the characters... to one ongoing scene where several men fall in love with Maid Marian and decide to make her theirs. Blah!
One scene... one unending opening scene. I couldn't do it. In talking with a writer friend of mine his eyes rolled straight to the back of his head. No one can make one hundred page scene work, no matter how of a writer they are. Besides that I'm not sure I'm ready for a Hunchback of Notre Dame styled plot - one woman and the four men who want her. Hugo did it better, and if I want to read that much pathos and romantic drama I'll pick him up again. That's all.
First blue book of the new year. Done. I'm annoyed I lugged this around for 15+ years.
Ever since I read Howard Pyle's Robin Hood story in school (just one of many excellent books I read in school), I've been fascinated with the Robin Hood story. This is one of the best retellings of the myth anywhere. Jennifer Roberson explores how such a disparate group of individuals could come to form a band of merry men in an age when social distinctions and class ruled one's life and actions. As such, it's more about how this group came to steal together then about the actual stealing. What sets this book apart from the others is the nuanced portrayal of Maid Marian. In this story, like every other woman of the age, she is a woman with few options, all options related to the men in her life. She has very little control of her own life and her outlook and attitudes reflect the time. What is interesting is the believable way in which Roberson makes Maid Marian become more, someone who takes and active part in her own life and comes to believe that she has the right to do so.
This book was so great it took up most of my weekend.
A brilliant look at the Robin Hood legend, mostly from the point of view of Marian. It really helps you understand what life would be like back then: the fear and uncertainty of having a king risking his life in a far-off land, the restrictions of being a lady of this era, and horrors of war. Robin has battle-flashbacks and a recurring fever he contracted in the Holy Land. Amazing book.
The pacing is slow, but overall, it is a good retelling of Robin Hood. I think I would have enjoyed the book more, however, if hadn't seemed like every man in the book wanted to have sex with Maid Marion.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Robert of Locksley (later Robin of Locksley, then Robin Hood) has been fighting with King Richard (the Lionheart) in the Crusades. Richard has been imprisoned, but Robert makes his way home. There, he comes across Marian, who he knew when they were younger. Marian is the King’s ward since her father passed away, and the Sheriff hopes to marry her. When Will Scarlet, wanted for murder, kidnaps her, though he doesn’t “defile” her, everyone assumes so, so she is ruined. Doesn’t change that the Sheriff still wants to marry her, but she will have none of it.
It’s a long book. It took 200 of the 800 pages for me to get interested, and even then, that was only when they started bringing in characters I already recognized from the Robin Hood story: Little John, Will Scarlett, “Brother” Tuck. I feel like I shouldn’t have to recognize the story to get interested in it. I also sometimes have a hard time when the same person/character is referred to by different names – last name, first name, title – at different points. It took me way too long to realize that William deLacey and the Sheriff were one and the same! I really did like the last 100 pages. Overall, though, I’m keeping it at an “ok” rating. I already have the sequel, so I will read it at some point.
Absolutely perfect retelling of the Robin Hood myth. She integrates all the versions with very accurate historical personages and setting. Her details about life in the late 12th Century are excellent. She credits Joseph and Frances Gies.
I ADORE all things Robin Hood, so I had to at least try and read it. Yes?
Thank the book gods, I freaking loved this book!
I know, I know. This cover makes it look like almost every other sappy dollar store romance novel on the shelves. "Lady of the Forest" is anything but. It's a wonderfully well researched, well written, epic tale that is sure to please many fans of the Robin Hood legend.
I loved how well researched the whole novel was. From the historical setting, to the day to day life, the portrayals of Prince John & King Richard, to the inclusion of the legend of Blondel, one of the lesser know legends of King Richard & Robin Hood.
The point of view shifts are well done, giving us insight to all the characters thought and motivations. Much better than simply making the sheriff evil for the sake of being evil. No, I don't like him. But I think can understand where he's coming from. & I actually really liked Sir Guy. :) which is good, cause he's my favorite character from the legend & so often he's just a mindless evil puppet. It's nice to see the traditional "bad guys" as rounded characters instead of mere plot devices.
& Robin! Oh my poor sweet Robin! :( :( :( I just wanna take him home & give him cookies & therapy. He's probably the most realistic and saddest post-crusade Robin Hood I've ever seen & I love him.
Aside from Prince John, I don't think there was a single other character I disliked.
And I absolutely DETEST Prince John, who is disgusting. Not even because he does shitty things. He's just gross with bad manners.
& oh my god, the flashbacks. So dark & scary & sad! But the scenes with Richard.... As bad as I feel for poor Robin, is it bad that I desperately want a companion novel showing what happened durning the crusades with Robin & blondel & Richard? He was so close with him... I wanna know how it happened! Maybe there'll be more in book 2?
Despite its massive size, which I know must be daunting to many would be readers, I was never bored while reading this. Complex political intrigue, racial issues between Saxon & Normens, plenty of action, plenty of romance but not totally taking over the novel, historical accuracy, sympathetic characters, & mice writing & a wonderful story.
This is everything I ask for in a Robin Hood novel. :)
I highly recommend "lady of the forest" especially if you're a fan of longer, more complex books like "lord of the Rings" or "wheel of time" or if you enjoyed other Robin Hood books such as "the outlaw chronicles" "the forest lord" or "hunter of Sherwood" I very much look forward to reading book 2 as soon as I can.
Lady Of The Forest by Jennifer Roberson is a re-telling of the Robin Hood legend.
Maid Marian is still reeling from the death of her father, Hugh FitzWalter, and wondering what will happen to her childhood home of Ravenskeep, when the Sheriff of Nottingham takes an interest in her.
Robert of Locksley has only recently returned home from the crusades where he fought at the side of Richard the Lionheart. Still nursing old wounds and deeper emotional scars he fights to return to his old life even though he has become a different man.
The lives of Marian and Robin are destined to intertwine as the heir to a vast throne becomes known as an infamous outlaw, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Or is that how the story goes? What of Little John and Sherwood forest? What did Will Scarlett do to receive punishment of death? Will Prince John succeed in stealing Richard's throne... Guess you'll have to read to find out!
I actually read this book over a long period. It is over 600 pages long and is a bit on the slow side in the beginning.
I, like most readers, was very much aware of the Legend of Robin Hood, from movies, like Kevin Costner's, "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" and the BBC weekly show, "Robin Hood." It's a story we've always heard. Robin Hood stole from the poor and gave to rich. He was able to shoot a bow so well that he could split another arrow in to. He was the confidant of King Richard. I believe when I started this novel I was expecting to have those tried and true idea's about Robin Hood challenged. I was expecting something new and different. I realize that re-telling a legend is probably one of the more difficult pursuits for an author, but I was a little disappointed. After reading the entire book I felt like I hadn't learned anything new.
The story telling was excellent the characters were very well developed, the settings were descriptive and beautiful. But, you knew exactly what was going to happen. Maid Marian and Robin Hood's love story has been told time and again and I just wanted something more, some sort of different take on the tale.
Jennifer Roberson's follow up book, The Lady of Sherwood continues the story where Lady of the Forest leaves off. Sadly, I haven't picked that one up. I've read other books by Jennifer Roberson that I enjoyed very much. Like the Sword-Dancer series and the Karavan's Series which I highly recommend, but I just wasn't too thrilled with Lady of the Forest.
This was everything I've ever wanted in a Robin Hood book, and everything I didn't want. It was beautiful and descriptive, with a strong Marian, a realistic Robin, beautiful love story, and credible villains. It was also an absolute slog to get through. I think we all deserve medals for getting through this. Instead of following a regular narrative, scene by scene to climax to end, this was more like, same scene via various perspectives ad nauseum.
I felt rage on behalf of Marian, who's voice was stifled and her reputation constructed by gross old men. I do wish there was more of an actual Robin Hood heroic story here, with him recruiting bands of followers and fighting against injustice, instead of a one-time skirmish in the woods. Also, anyone gonna talk about that village that burned down? Anyone? No?
Still, beautifully written, and I'm glad it stuck to some of the classic plotline. But I won't read it again.
My favorite Robin Hood-Maid Marian retelling. Got the paperback as a hand me down from my older sister quite a couple of years (a loooong time) ago and I've reread it almost every year.
There's a sequel, too. I love both books because I love Robin's characterization here, his PTSD-ish experiences, how he falls in love with Marian, how he is with his merry band of outlaws and how he is with Marian herself (both books show that Robin is very much open to how much he loves Marian, very cute and surprising since it's a historical novel) but not too PDA to make it tacky.
I'm a sucker for Robin Hood. I like the heroes and ladies and chivalry and all that. This was disappointing. First and foremost, it was a tremendous slog to get through. It's nearly 600 pages and the action takes place over less than a week. Every detail of the plot needs to be told from the POV of the person doing the action and often from the POV of more than one character, nothing happens off-screen. I'm also not sure I was into the writing. It was intended to be more authentic I think and probably some people are into that, but I thought it was tedious.
Like: - higher focus on the Crusades than other Robin Hood stories I've read - inclusion of Jews living in England at the time - clearly researched: mentions of Longchamp, Queen Eleanor, Geoffrey, Leopold of Austria, Acre, etc.
Dislike: - writing is terrible and weak - relies on cliches (dead parents, "a breath she didn't realize she had been holding") - characters are dull/flat and there is no character development - why does every man find Marian irresistible? Is that realistic?
I'm honestly not even sure why I kept reading rather than DNFing. This was so character heavy with minimal plot and so many of the characters were unlikeable. This is definitely reflective of the time period and there were a lot of harsh references towards the Jews which made me uncomfortable. It was way too long and drawn out and I don't understand why the story went on for almost 600 pages. It took me forever to get into it and there were only a few points in the story where I was actually inclined to keep reading. It was slow, drawn out, misogynistic, and generally boring. I usually love a retelling, especially a longer one but this was repetitive and unexciting.
There is something so refreshing about this book. I have so much nostalgia for it, and it's done so well. Rereading it as an audiobook was well worth it.
One thing did stand out to me, though. It strikes me as odd that this book seems to take place of the course of a week, and in that time ransom money is shipped to Germany, the king is released, and he travels to Nottingham. I don't think travel in 1194 was that efficient.
Maid Marian starts out as a fairly naive character and presumably grows out of this through the book. However, she is placed into situations of pure stupidity in order to move the story line along. Better creativity should have been used in moving the story line along rather than forcing the main character to select deliberately stupid choices that contradict her growth as a character.
The story drags on with unnecessary scenes only to have the ending be rushed.
My kind of historical romance based on a legend! This is the second novel in a row I have read by this author, and I love the way she draws the reader into the times, the politics. the lives of the people of the time. This is a version of the legend of Robin Hood which has endured as a favorite through the centuries, Robin and Maid Marion who are Sir Robert Locksley and Lady Marian of Ravenskeep. Robert is the son of an Earl and has just come back from two years fighting along side of King Richard himself in the Crusades. Marian is the daughter of a Knight who was killed in front of Robert's eyes as he was taken captive. She has mourned her father for the customary year and now is going to be expected to marry.
I have two comments to make for anyone thinking about reading this book. Do NOT read the synopsis on here or on the book. This is not a torrid bodice ripper historical romance. And contrary to the synopsis it is not about Marian running off into the woods to join an outlaw band. This is an over 700 page well written novel that takes the reader deep into the thoughts, motives, and actions of the characters that are only touched on in most Robin Hood books and movies. It's a long book. I liked that. I did not want to finish it. I did not know until I was 3/4 of the way through it that there is a sequel. This is actually a prequel Robin Hood story as it reveals all the events and actions that led up to an Earl's son becoming an outlaw. It also slowly introduces us to the other players, The Sheriff of Nottingham, Little John, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck....all of them and more. None of them know each other but circumstances they did not anticipate or want draws them together.
I liked the way Marian develops by necessity brought on by the times and desperation to keep her freedom and not be forced into a marriage she fears. It is a reminder of a time when women had no rights at all and were either objects for sex or merely a means to produce an heir or to tie two kingdoms or noble houses together. She is caught in the middle of this and not willing to let it bring her down. If a woman is "compromised" even if nothing happened, she is ruined and loses all respect whether it is her fault or not.
I did love Robert Locksley/Robin which of course everyone has for ccenturies - he is truly a hero of the ages. This author did some very different things with him. Physically she gave him long almost white blond hair which made him easily recognized by both friends and enemies. It also made him even more dashing than in some stories!
But she did something very interesting. This book was published in 1992, 23 years ago. We had not heard much about PTSD back then if it even had a name. I am sure it has existed since war began which would be about the beginning of mankind. Robert has seen the most brutal of battles, has seen men chopped to pieces in front of his eyes, he has killed over and over again, been captured and tortured. He is only alive because he was ransomed by Richard the Lionheart, his beloved King. The reader truly sees his flashbacks, his dreams, his moments of almost insanity as he tries to come to terms and realization that he is in England again. Robert also has a strict and unkind father and is his father's only heir. His childhood was not pleasant. All of this creates a hero who is flawed and tortured, but above it all, he is the perfect man to become a beloved legend.
I detested the Sheriff of Nottingham...after all we always hate him. But I never knew him before. That does not make him any more likable, but it does give new insight into why he was who he was. It was, as all times are, a time when strong men sought power. Some were born into it and some had to use every device they could to gain it. The latter was the Sheriff.
From the author's note at the end: "Lady of the Forest is not a recounting of the classic story, because there is none; the ballads that introduced Robin Hood to English folklore (initially mentioned in 1377 via Piers Plowman) consistently contradict one another throughout the several centuries of their creation. This novel therefore is purely my own concoction, a fictional interpretation of imaginary events leading to the more familiar adventures depicted in novels, TV productions, and films." She goes on to mention that different versions place Robin in times of different Kings. She chose Richard's time.
I read the mass market paper back version. I have ordered the hardback. This one is a keeper!
I really liked the history that Jennifer Roberson wove into this story. She does an excellent job of creating a picture of Medieval life from peasant to Prince. She also does a very nice job of describing the politics during this period. It's obvious that she did a lot of research before sitting down to write this book.
I recently read 'Roselynde' by Roberta Gellis, it covers the same period in time as 'Lady of the Forest' but gives greater details about the politics and the conflict between King Richard and his brother John. It gives a good foundation of knowledge for reading about this period in history and the books share a similar theme woven through; the unmarried landholding maiden vulnerable to plotting and ambitiotious men.
I liked the way Jennifer Roberson created circumstances that brought Robin and his men together. She twists things just slightly to make her story work and sometimes the relationship between Robin and Lady Marian was too drawn out and melodramatic for my tastes but I did enjoy this book. For me the romantic relationship was the least interesting and satisfying thread woven into the story. I liked the male characters and all of their posturing, competition, conniving and camaraderie.
I really enjoyed the character Much, a boy who nearly loses his hand for stealing the Sheriff of Nottingham's purse. And he brought to mind another cut-purse who endeared himself to me in 'The Court of Illusions' by Rosemary Hawley Jarman. I also liked the character Robert of Locksley, 'Robin', who suffers from memories of battles fought in the Crusades and his experience as a prisoner of war.
I think this book could have been improved with a little more editing, there were phrases that were repeated too often and too much attention paid to the paling and blushing of people's faces. I think a shorter story would have had greater tension and been more satisfying overall.
I thought this was an interesting historical novel with a lot of attention paid to detail, it was enjoyable and well written but I think that less could have been more.
At page 250, I realized that the reason I don't remember much about this book (which I read initially around 2000 or so) was because I didn't like it much. Nobody is happy. Robin has extreme PTSD from everything he saw and went through while on Crusade. Marian is still grieving her father. Will Scathlocke is on the verge of psychopathic madness because his wife was raped to death by Norman soldiers (and he earned the name "Will Scarlet" because he killed those soldiers horribly). Guy of Gisborne can't think of anything except how much he wants to bang Marian. The Sheriff of Nottingham is on the same page, just more calculatingly. Prince John is as terrible as he always is. And of the two other female characters introduced thus far, one has died, and one hates Marian because she thinks she exposed her affair with Alan of the Dales out of some kind of prudery (she did not, the affair was discovered because the two of them were stupid enough to go at it in a spare room with an unlocked door).
Almost halfway through the book, everything is terrible for everyone, and while Marian and Robin are decent characters, I don't feel like slogging through another 340 pages to see how they make it through their respective private pains and finish up. If I feel the urge for some Robin Hood, I'll go reread The Outlaws of Sherwood instead.