A.M. Leibowitz's Reviews > Heir of Locksley

Heir of Locksley by N.B. Dixon
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really liked it
bookshelves: 4-star, blog-review, divine-review, historical, lgbt, literary, new-adult

For a lot of reasons, this is a really tough review. For one thing, it’s not my usual fare. As much as I love parts of the legend of Robin Hood, it’s been done a whole lot, and I’m not keen on the Crusades angle in some of them. I’m also not typically interested in historical fiction outside of memoir or written by someone who lived through a particular era. That said, this was a pleasant surprise in many ways. However, I also had some misgivings.

On the plus side, this is a fresh take on Robin and his Merry Men. Everyone is in there, as would be expected. But this is Robin before he becomes the famous outlaw. We get a glimpse of his history and childhood, and I loved everything about the way his animosity with Guy of Gisborne plays out. While I didn’t end up entirely sympathetic to Guy—and I’ll freely admit I really wanted him to get his in the end—it was surprisingly easy to see why he would harbor so much resentment. That was incredibly well done.

The social message is no less potent than it would have been at the time the legends were conceived. I loved the jabs at classism, particularly the implications that Robin is romanticizing the peasant life. Will is absolutely right when he says Robin wouldn’t survive the realities, and that plays out with disastrous results. Will is in a perfect position to both critique the system and understand both sides of it, and he makes an excellent conscience for the sometimes arrogant and foolhardy Robin. I think the way this is both subtle and overt throughout the book is the mark of an excellent writer.

I’m also now a fan of “shipping” (romantically pairing) Robin and Will Scathelock. It’s not one I’ve come across before. I actually ended up doing a search for Robin/Will fan fiction, and there is surprisingly almost none. So that’s a really good new take on the story. Plus, when I read the blurb, I did an internal happy dance. Robin Hood as a literary figure lends himself perfectly to being bisexual.

That said, I have some hesitation there because some parts of the story felt crafted in order to make that pairing work. There was definitely an element of downplaying Robin’s interest in women which happens pretty often in fan works with a canonically straight character. It wasn’t quite gay-for-you (or I’d never have finished reading it). But it had a vague tone to it suggesting Robin’s interest in women wasn’t genuine that I found dismissive of bisexuality. I was also puzzled by the way Robin, who seemed wholly non-religious, bought into the “it’s wrong for men to lie with men” rather than the more historically accurate “you could be put to death for that.” It’s especially odd given how Robin seems to have very little regard for other social conventions.

On that note, I found it strange that the blurb doesn’t even mention the entire first third of the book. I could see if it was just a chapter or a prologue, but there’s an entire segment of storytelling which didn’t make it into the description. To me, it felt like a bit of an emphasis on the “lgbt” content (which is virtually non-existent in this installment; it’s at the level of a few stolen glances and some vague references, and the “heterosexual” content is much more in-depth).

And here’s where it gets even more difficult, because some of my feelings on it are based on the treatment of women in the book. Warning: spoilers.

(view spoiler)

Ultimately, I’m not sure how I feel. I love the author’s writing style, and there’s so much great adventure, sword fights and fist fights, and competitive archery. The descriptions are vivid, and there aren’t a lot of words wasted on describing every single detail. Those elements are incredibly exciting. If not for the more unfortunate aspects of the plot, I would absolutely give it top rating. Unfortunately, I just can’t get past the things which nearly lost me.

For fantastic writing style and high adventure but some cringe-inducing elements, this gets 8/10 fountain pens.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
December 1, 2016 – Shelved
December 1, 2016 – Shelved as: 4-star
December 1, 2016 – Shelved as: blog-review
December 1, 2016 – Shelved as: divine-review
December 1, 2016 – Shelved as: historical
December 1, 2016 – Shelved as: lgbt
December 1, 2016 – Shelved as: literary
December 1, 2016 – Shelved as: new-adult
December 1, 2016 – Finished Reading

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