I remember seeing Robin Hood films. I also watched a cartoon series about Robin Hood when I was very young.
This is the first retelling of Robin Hood I have read, and it was action from start to end. The title of the book is just perfect! It automatically mentions Robin Hood, but got me interested as to find out what his origins were and how he came to be.
The attention to detail is amazing and the book is very atmospheric. There’s bloodshead and disagreements as well as romance.
We are introduced to the characters well and they are well fleshed-out.
I felt I was immediately transported into the era. Every detail is so real.
I was a little confused by some of the language used at first, but luckily there’s a dictionary at the back of the book (which I thought would have been better placed at the front to avoid having to go to the end). The book begins with a helpful chart and a family tree so the reader gets a sense of who’s who right before they read/ listen to the first sentence. There’s also a handy graphic showing the shields. This was a nice touch.
The cover was mysterious despite Robin Hood’s name and after finishing it, I was happy that I had a greater understanding of how Robin Hood came to be Robin Hood and quite a detailed idea of his background as well as that of the characters who are household names when we think of Robin Hood.
Some parts did get a little wordy at times, but the upside of that was that the descriptions of both the surroundings and people as well as the culture and customs of the time were made even more visual and realistic. Short chapters really helped the pace along and kept me listening to my Kindle ARC on my iPad!
I’m looking forward to book two!
Thanks to Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.
Author Q&A with Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer
Robin Hood’s Dawn: Book One in the Robin Hood Trilogy
Robin Hood has been featured in many books, movies, and television shows. How is your story different?
We have taken a fresh approach to the Robin Hood story, and we’re excited to share our vision with fans of the legendary hero.
We have creatively reimagined the origins of the Robin Hood legend, which includes exploring the complexity of his family dynamics – an aloof, proud father loyal to King Henry II, and a kind-hearted, generous mother devoted to ministering to the poor with her gift for healing. One theme is that the consequences of immoral actions and secret sins can reverberate across generations, and this is part of the legacy that Robin receives from his father.
We wanted to cast him as a hero fighting against the tyranny of a lawless government official instead of a bandit redistributing wealth. When Robin is falsely accused of a shocking crime by the new Sheriff of Nottingham, he could have simply retreated to a safe place beyond the reach of the sheriff. However, he feels a responsibility to the people – he believes in the intrinsic value of every human being – so he takes a stand to defend the people from the actions of the sheriff. And this points to another theme: one person can make a difference by taking a stand for what is right.
Robin also feels great admiration for the newly crowned King Richard the Lionhearted. His loyalty to the king will create a number of conflicts and unexpected consequences in the story.
Lastly, we wanted to set our Robin Hood story in a fascinating time period: the 12th century. In our humble opinion, the 12th century has much to offer fans of sweeping tales of political, social, and spiritual upheaval.
We have carefully constructed our story within the framework of real history. We hope that this realism and devotion to actual history will add to the enjoyment of the story and encourage people to learn more about this time.
You’ve emphasized how your Robin Hood story has been reimagined. Will fans of the traditional ballads still recognize this as a Robin Hood story?
There is a lot of variety in the many books and screen adaptations of the Robin Hood legend. We wanted to create a story that was respectful towards fans of the original ballads and legends without necessarily adhering to the same storylines that have been previously written. It is our hope that all Robin Hood fans will enjoy this fresh retelling of the story.
For example, we feel that Marian is a character who deserves more attention. All too often she is a background character with little to do. With this in mind, we have focused on creating a Lady Marian who will figure more prominently in the story, especially in book 2.
Our Marian is more than a love interest for Robin. Over the course of Robin Hood’s Dawn, Marian transforms from a sheltered, somewhat pampered, girl into a brave woman who continuously strives to overcome both her fears and the obstacles that she faces. We also wanted her to be feminine and remain believable as a woman of the 12th century. Of course, keep in mind that the most prominent woman of the 12th century was the indomitable Eleanor of Aquitaine, an inspiration to any woman living in a male-dominated society.
Fans of the Robin Hood legend will find many familiar characters: Maid Marian, Little John, Allan-a-dale, Will Scarlet, Much the Miller’s son, Guy of Gisborne, and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Readers will also meet real historical figures such as King Stephen, King Henry II, Richard the Lionhearted, King Philippe II of France, Prince John “the Lackland”, and many others, including Ranulphus Besace. Who was he? Well, he was a real person who was King Richard’s personal physician!
This book is advertised as the first in a trilogy. Will the first two books end in cliff-hangers? Will any of the books be stand-alone?
Although the final mysteries and conflicts will not be resolved until book 3, we have structured the trilogy so that books 1 and 2 do not end in cliffhangers.
The readers will not be left wondering whether the main characters will live or die, and we have endeavored to create a sense of completion in each of the first two books. Some story threads will be resolved, and some of the mysteries surrounding the main characters will be revealed in each of the first two books.
We think readers will be excited and eager for the next installment without suffering undue frustration at the endings of books 1 and 2.
The books will not be stand-alone.
How did each of you become interested in writing this story and working together as co-authors?
I love to tell stories with multi-dimensional characters. I speak several languages, and I found that I enjoyed not only writing stories but also writing them in different languages. My favorite legendary hero is Robin Hood, and my favorite historical figure is Anne Boleyn. My first novel is an English-language re-imagining of the story of Anne Boleyn.
In 2015, I met Coleen (J.C.) on the Internet and we decided to co-author a Robin Hood Trilogy.
It is amazing that Coleen and I have managed to successfully work together on our project despite the fact that we have never met each other in real life. We talk on the phone and frequently exchange skype messages as well as emails. We have been working together long-distance despite living in very different time zones.
I began writing about three years ago. I had previously done editing work for other authors, but I had never thought about writing my own stories until one day when I was suddenly inspired to start writing, and I’ve been writing nearly non-stop ever since.
I wanted to write a book that would honor the legend of Robin Hood as a man who stood against the tyranny of a powerful government official; a man who fought for justice and fairness because he recognized the intrinsic value rooted in the humanity of all people.
So, you’ve never actually met, you come from different countries, different cultures, and speak different languages. How can you co-author a book? Is it because you have similar writing styles?
Fortunately, Olivia is fluent in English, because that’s the only language I know!
We have found that we have a lot in common – especially our love of writing and of history. We have to work hard to merge our writing styles, but we have successfully done this.
That’s very true. Oliva and I have very different “voices” and writing styles. You might even say they are nearly opposite styles.
I tend to write in a straightforward, expository style, with a minimum of descriptive elements and metaphorical flourishes. I am good at explaining things, organizing ideas, and creating natural sounding dialogue.
My writing is characterized by lush romanticism and passionate lyricism. I love to create metaphors and descriptions which excite the imagination of the reader in a vivid and dramatic way.
In some respects, Olivia’s words are the emotional heart of the story, and my words represent the rational intellect. Of course, it’s not quite that cut-and-dried, but it is one way to describe how two people with such different styles have come together to create Robin Hood’s Dawn.
I have not 1, but two excerpts to share with you of two different genres.
Chapter 3: The Earl of Huntingdon
22 August 1188, Sherwood Forest
Marian was laughing so hard that she was gasping for breath. She admonished, “You cannot put a hole in that cloud with an arrow.”
“Why do you have so little faith in my abilities?” queried Robin with mock offense. “You are not even giving me a chance. Very well. Pick a leaf, any leaf, and I will pierce the center in one try.”
Marian wiped a stray tear that had leaked from her eye during her unrestrained mirth. “How do you expect me to choose one leaf? The tree is thick with them. It does not matter which leaf I select; you will always claim that you pierced the correct one.”
She beheld him as he stood there, bow in hand, his pale blue eyes sparkling with mischief, his boyishly handsome face sporting an impish smile, and his wheat-colored hair slightly ruffled owing to their spirited ride from the Locksley stables to their favorite meadow. Marian liked to imagine that it was an enchanted corner of the forest – a refuge dominated by a massive oak, one of the largest trees in this part of the greenwood.
“Well?” he demanded. “What shall I aim for next? I need a challenge, and you will not allow me to poke holes in the clouds, for fear that it will cause them to rain–”
“That is not what I said!”
Robin persisted, “And you refuse to choose a leaf, although there appears to be an abundance of leaves from which you could make a selection. I have already slain a brace of coneys and a pheasant. Elvina and the cook will be quite pleased with me.”
Marian huffed in mock exasperation. “Elvina and the cook are always pleased with you.” A sly twinkle brightened her eyes. “What about the pheasant you missed?”
“Missed!” he thundered. “No, no, I did not miss that pheasant. I never miss. Someone deliberately distracted me.”
“It was accidental,” she insisted with a grin.
Robin argued, “Sneaking up behind me and shouting, ‘Do not miss,’ just as I released the arrow was not accidental.”
Their laughter faded as he took her hands into his. Marian gazed deeply into his eyes, attempting to learn every shift in the emotions that he guarded so well.
She believed that he revealed more of himself to her than anyone else, but he was still often a puzzle. At times, he was quiet and contemplative, obviously focusing his mind on some problem or issue, yet denying that he was thinking about anything important. On some occasions, she had seen him tense with anger, only to disguise his feelings by making a jest or laughing, even though he was clearly not amused. Marian knew that when he was truly battling his emotions, he would disappear into the embrace of Sherwood Forest, for Robin was a man who found comfort in the untamed beauty of nature.
Once, in a surprisingly candid conversation, Robin had described to her what the forest meant to him. He spoke of how the forest made him feel alive, and how each of his senses experienced the greenwood: the fragrances of pine and wild blossoms, the sounds of a rushing river at his feet and the rustling of leaves overhead, the taste of freshly gathered berries, the feel of a gentle rain against his face, and the vistas that could only be viewed from tree limbs high above the forest floor. Robin had told her that the forest was both vast, as it stretched to the horizon, and intimate, as the sheltering trees sometimes seemed to be crowding around him.
Marian had frequently pondered his words, and she longed to hear him speak openly about himself again. Unfortunately, whenever she asked him about his feelings or his thoughts, he deflected her questions with either a joke or a change of topic.
Chapter 6: The Earl of Sherwood Forest
25 August 1188, Sherwood Forest
Forcing himself to redirect his thoughts away from Marian’s perilous circumstances, Robin returned to his scrutiny of Gisborne’s weapon. He frowned at the sword and mumbled, “Interesting.”
“What is it, Lord Robin?” inquired Much.
Robin revealed, “This sword is quite distinctive.”
Will leaned closer for a better view. “It looks like any other sword, except for all those marks on the blade.”
Robin inspected the extravagant weapon as he described it. “This is an excellent sword, equal to the one I carry. It’s unlikely that a landless knight like Gisborne would own such a weapon, although sometimes a wealthy noble will award a superior sword to his favorite squire on the occasion of his knighthood, especially if the knight will be tasked with guarding the lord.”
Much felt confused. “Gisborne is Argentan’s captain; he was probably his squire too. Why does the quality of this sword surprise you?”
Robin countered, “Much, do you remember the Barony of Argentan from our travels through Normandy?” At the quick shake of Much’s head, he disclosed, “Well, I remember it. Argentan is not prosperous; it is small and insignificant. I wonder how Baron de Argentan could afford to give such an expensive weapon to his captain.”
Rising, the three men strolled to a nearby spot brightened by a shaft of light, and Robin held the blade where the sun’s rays could illuminate its elaborate designs. He continued to study it as Will and Much watched.
Much commented, “Those marks look like letters.”
An amazed Will stared at Much. “You can read?”
Much’s ruddy complexion darkened slightly in self-consciousness. “I can read a little. I was allowed to listen to Lord Robin’s lessons, and his tutor kindly taught me many things.”
Robin pointed to the elegant etching on the blade. “Notice these two lions – I saw something similar on Argentan’s ring. Above the lions is a rising sun, and below them is a peculiar inscription.”
Much squinted at the blade and grumbled in frustration. “I know my reading is not as well-practiced as yours, but I cannot decipher any of those words.”
Robin smiled affectionately at his friend. “Be at ease, Much. It is not English; it is written in Latin. I’ve seen this style of inscribed sword in the past, but typically they are engraved with prayers, such as ‘In the Name of the Father.’”
“Do you know what it says?” asked Will.
Robin replied, “I can translate it, even though the letters are crowded together. It says, ‘From Shadows to Glory: I am Immortal, and My Kingdom Awaits.’” He harrumphed grimly, flustered by the unexpected phrase. He lowered the sword from the patch of sunlight as he became lost in his thoughts.
Robin blew out an exasperated breath. “Argentan mentioned shadows, but he was speaking in riddles. I must think on this more. For now, I will keep this sword; I want Gisborne to know that I have it.”
Following Much and Will back to the campfire, Robin plotted Marian’s rescue.
Robin vs. the Sheriff Excerpt
Chapter 12: More Precious Than Silver
January 1189, South of Nottingham
Argentan goaded Robin. “Many times I have heard the story of how your father sent Hugh of Gisborne to the shadows. Yet, you are hesitating. Why is that, Robin? Are you the son of Duncan Fitzooth, or are you a maudlin woman?”
Guy felt the pressure of Robin’s knee vanish as the outlaw stood while still pointing his sword at Guy’s throat. Robin then reached down and reclaimed Gisborne’s weapon. “I will be keeping this sword, Gisborne. I’ve grown fond of it.” Closely watching Guy, Robin instructed his friend, “Much, tie Gisborne’s hands so that he cannot attempt another cowardly attack, if I turn my back again.”
An apparently disappointed sheriff sneered, “Showing Gisborne mercy demonstrates to me that you are weak. Gisborne is weak too. It is a fatal flaw that you both share, along with your lust for the same woman. I find it interesting that the two of you have so much in common. What do you think, Robin Hood?”
Intently studying the sheriff, Robin parried Argentan’s verbal thrust. “I think I’d like to know why you are communicating with King Philippe.” Robin inwardly cheered when he saw the sheriff blanch.
Argentan was actually speechless for several moments, but he soon recovered and coolly replied, “I believe that life in the frozen forest has addled your mind. The King of France would never take notice of a humble baron from Normandy.” He frowned and feigned sadness. “You are like a man lost in the twilight of a wintry day; the clouds have obscured the sun, and the abundance of shadows has confused your sense of direction.”
Robin barked a short, humorless laugh. “Your riddles are absurd.”
Argentan resumed, seemingly unperturbed. “Someday, my young Earl of Huntingdon, the sun will break through the clouds and illuminate everything around you. The truth of the shadows will be revealed.”
“You have not answered me: why are you corresponding with the King of France?” Robin repeated while scrutinizing the sheriff’s reaction. “Does King Henry know that he sent a spy to Nottingham?”
Chapter 17: The Lion Hunt
22 February 1192, City of Acre
As he led the royal procession, Robin worriedly looked back at the litter carrying Marian. Her flaxen hair was concealed beneath a Saracen-style headscarf, and her litter had a fabric canopy to hide her from view. Marian was oblivious to the perils she faced in this land, where great wealth could be obtained by selling such a fair-haired beauty to the highest bidder. Although she had scoffed at Robin’s orders that Much and Allan march beside her litter with their swords drawn, the two men had obeyed Robin’s stern directives without hesitation.
Next to Marian’s litter rode a sullen King Richard; he was still furious at Robin for his criticisms of their stalled Crusade. The fact that Robin was right had only fueled the king’s temper, which burned hotter than the accursed desert sun. André followed Richard, and there were eight mounted knights protectively situated around the king and Marian.
Robin sighed loudly as he resumed his forward scrutiny of the road. He didn’t have enough men to properly guard the king, but Richard, who was supremely confident in his fighting skills, had flatly refused to wait for reinforcements. Robin deeply resented the king’s willingness to expose Marian to danger. It was inexcusably selfish and thoughtless in Robin’s opinion, but he had no choice but to acquiesce to the king’s demands. Because of the threat to Richard, Robin had instructed his men to wear helmets and chainmail hauberks under their surcoats. Additionally, they carried Norman-style kite shields, which had both neck and arm straps.
Robin had traveled too far ahead of the group, so he stopped and examined his surroundings with care. They were on a road flanked by the Genoese and Venetian quarters, and the harbor was a short distance away. Like many areas in this war-torn city, the buildings were heavily damaged. Removing his helmet to wipe the sweat from his brow, Robin observed that the street was strangely deserted, and he felt a stirring in the pit of his stomach. He signaled for the procession to halt. In the resulting eerie stillness, Robin concentrated all his senses.
“What is the problem?” the king gruffly complained with unmistakable impatience.
Robin did not respond; something was wrong, and he could feel it. Suddenly, a small rock fell from the heavens and rolled across the street. At first, he gave it little consideration as he put his helmet back on, but then his mind was filled with the awareness that stones do not drop from the sky like rain.
His eyes darted upward, and fear seized him as he recognized the familiar shape of a bow. Urgently, he yelled over his shoulder, “Shields up, left!” The well-trained knights, including the king, promptly raised their shields as the archers released a volley of arrows.
Robin turned his horse and sped to the king. He had seen three archers, and they were clearly targeting King Richard. Rejoining the others, Robin saw ten men brandishing swords and riding towards the royal party from a forward position, while another eight were approaching from the rear. There was no avenue of escape, and the king’s elite guard arranged their horses in a defensive semi-circle around Richard and Marian, using the façade of an adjacent structure to prevent the enemy from completely surrounding them.