This is my first review of the #12DaysofDiversity readathon, which started today. I’ll be sending out (hopefully) a lot of reviews during the next 12 days, so be looking for a bunch of reviews of diverse retellings. More information about the readathon can be found here.
This novella is a retelling, but it’s also an origin story. The book follows Marian, the much fabled love of Robin Hood. When the story begins, she’s only fourteen and through tragic circumstances, is rushed to the court of Nottingham, where she becomes a favorite of King John. While in Nottingham, she meets another young girl, the daughter of farmers, with amazing red hair and a fiery spirit. This girl’s name is Robin Hood. Thus begins one of the greatest stories of love and adventure ever told. Other beloved characters from the original legend also make appearances, including Little John, Marian’s childhood friend, and Friar Tuck makes a small appearance (or is at least spoken of).
I really enjoyed reading this novella. The characters are well-developed from Marian’s yearning to be an independent woman, to Robin’s spirit and desire to grow up to be a knight. Turning Robin into a woman, and turning their love story into a lesbian romance, was also a welcome change. Being inside Marian’s head (told from her point of view in the third person) as she initially questions her feelings for Robin, then gives into them, provided some beautiful passages of prose. Their relationship isn’t perfect or easy, but it is beautiful and sweet in its own right, and refreshingly realistic.
This book also really made me think about the role of women in this time period and our society today, and how little it’s really changed. Marian is attacked multiple times throughout the novel by men (trigger warnings), and her inability to defend herself is a theme for a short while (though I do wish it would’ve been explored more). She also has no desire to marry, which wouldn’t have been allowed in this time period, and she wants so badly to rebel against her place in society, and does in interesting ways.
Overall, this novella was a quick, interesting read. I loved the strong female characters and the romance. Be forewarned, though, that the book ends just as you feel like the “real” story is beginning. I’m very hopeful that this is the first in a series, as I would definitely read about any adventures that Robin and Marian undertake from here, especially as they build the band of merry men (or women?) and take on King John.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
What other Robin Hood retellings have you read? Would you give this one a shot? Let me know in the comments below!