Saturday, October 5, 2013
ARC Review: Will in Scarlet
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013
Middle-Grade Adventure Historical
Scheduled to release October 8
Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.
I thought this looked cool as I love Robin Hood stories so I requested it. In the end, I found it a bit on the young side and lacking my favorite element of the Robin Hood story (to wit, the Robin/Maid Marian romance).
The beginning was so slow with thirteen-year-old Will out on the hunt for wolves with his father's men. It took me two or three tries to get through the first chapter though I knew not to expect the typical Robin Hood story. This group returns to Will's father's castle, ruled in his father's absence by his uncle as regent. Will's prowess against the wolves proves him capable of might but the arrival of Guy of Gisborne and the Sheriff of Nottingham with orders from the usurping Prince John tests his diplomatic abilities. He ends up on the run, falling in with a band of outlaws in Sherwood Forest: cruel leader Gilbert, giant John Little, puny Much (an orphaned girl disguised as a boy), and drunkard Rob, who doesn't seem like much. On his quest for vengeance, Will accidentally inspires the group to become bandits who steal from the rich and distribute to the poor, spawning the famous Robin Hood legend.
My biggest problem was probably just wanting a more traditional Robin Hood story. I like the heroic cocky Robin who taunts Guy and the Sheriff while playing around with Little John and wooing Marin. It's not fair to expect this book to be like that but it was what was on my mind when I started. I was won over by its charms. The characters have their moments and I was especially moved by Much (I feel like a lot of Robin Hood retellings have girls disguising themselves as boys) and her struggle to prove herself tough enough to keep around.
Ultimately I deem this book slight as it did not make much of an impression on me. I dislike that Robin Hood lost prominence and I prefer a more romantic story (of course there's a bit of something between Will and Much but very little as this seems very intended for a tween audience.) It may be more enjoyable for a younger reader or a more rabid fan of the Robin Hood legend.