Monday, October 7, 2013

Book review: "Will in Scarlet" by Matthew Cody

Will in ScarletTitle: Will in Scarlet
Author: Matthew Cody
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013

Will Shackley has grown up in a life of privilege, the son of a lord and sole heir to his father's household and keep. He spends his free time causing mischief, but must grow up quickly when he is forced to flee the only life he knows for one of uncertainty, danger, and revenge. Luckily, he is captured by a band of outlaws known as the Merry Men, who hope to gain a ransom for the young lad on such a fine horse.

Will, who renames himself Will Scarlet after a childhood nickname, manages to extend his life long enough to convince Much (a girl disguised as a boy), John Little the giant, and Rob, the band's drunk, to join him on a raid of his former home with the promise of a treasure. Of course, things don't go according to neither Will's nor the Merry Men's plan, and life gets even more interesting.

You really have to go into this book not expecting a straight-up Robin Hood retelling. This is much more of an origin story, before Robin was heroic and confident, before Will Scarlet was part of the Merry Men, before the Sheriff of Nottingham was the low and dastardly man we know. It really gives us a different way of looking at the characters, and as an adventure story it's very good, though a bit slow in the beginning. If some of the part about Will in his childhood home (also a castle) were trimmed a bit, I think it would be easier to get into. Yet once the action started I flew through it. 

I'm hoping there will be a follow up, since I'd like to hear more about these characters and their history. Plus, we haven't gotten to Friar Tuck just yet, and Maid Marian only has a not-even-really-passing mention. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good medieval adventure tale with swords and trickery and good-hearted thieves. Knowing the Robin Hood tale is a plus, but if you're a huge fan just keep an open mind and stick with it because it won't be what you expect.

Disclosure: I received this e-galley from Edelweiss as a librarian reviewer. NetGalley rejected my request, boo.

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