My first Robin Hood retelling. I feel like there needs to be a medal—a plaque! And for my first, what a fun one this was! Thanks to Disney-Hyperion and FFBC Tours for letting my join the Merry Men for today!
by Jenny Elder Moke
320 pages | Expected publication: June 9th 2020 | Disney-Hyperion
ARC Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion and FFBC Tours
You have the blood of kings and rebels within you, love. Let it rise to meet the call.
Isabelle of Kirklees has only ever known a quiet life inside the sheltered walls of the convent, where she lives with her mother, Marien. But after she is arrested by royal soldiers for defending innocent villagers, Isabelle becomes the target of the Wolf, King John’s ruthless right hand. Desperate to keep her daughter safe, Marien helps Isabelle escape and sends her on a mission to find the one person who can help: Isabelle’s father, Robin Hood.
As Isabelle races to stay out of the Wolf’s clutches and find the father she’s never known, she is thrust into a world of thieves and mercenaries, handsome young outlaws, new enemies with old grudges, and a king who wants her entire family dead. As she joins forces with Robin and his Merry Men in a final battle against the Wolf, will Isabelle find the strength to defy the crown and save the lives of everyone she holds dear?
Yes, this book was a grand old time, running around the great oaks of Sherwood Forest and besting those pesky Sheriffs. Outlaws stealing gold to give away and shooting arrows like its nobody’s business. Someone described it as campy fun—they legit all wear hose and tunics—and now I can’t think of a better way to describe this. Even though this book is centred on Robin Hood’s daughter, there are many characters we recognize like Marien, Little John, and a passing reference to Friar Tuck. And, obviously, the big man himself.
The story goes that Isabelle must find her father, whom she has never met, in order to keep her mother, Marien, safe from the King’s righthand man. She leaves Kirklees and the priory she calls home for the first time, and ventures out into the unknown to find the fabled Merry Men. And while this is a great way to kick off this story, it was executed very poorly. As a writer myself, I am obsessed about starting a book off right. Drop your reader into the last possible moment before they don’t know what’s going on. This felt like page 30, not 1. Within three pages, Isabelle is randomly thrown in prison, is sprung from it, and sent off to meet a mysterious man her mother says will help. As the reader, I sorely needed that extra time to see what she did to land in jail. I needed that extra time to meet Isabelle before she’s slapped with the label of Robin Hood’s daughter. A label that essentially defines her.
And although we got off to a sour start, I did come to like Isabelle. Adore, even. She’s an innocent yet fiery little thing who doesn’t seem all too hung-up on the religion she’s grown up with and is a crackshot with a bow. Most of the characters in this band of outlaws were great, actually. The villains were a little bland for me, but the Merry Men made up for it. They are a tight-knit group that is a family found. Isabelle is welcomed into their ranks, even without them knowing who she is, and it was sweet reading of their interactions with one another. A of them few were hard to tell apart because they were all abnormally huge and two were named Little in some form. As expected, there is a romance, but it’s a small one. It’s very obvious who Isabelle will be with—can it be one-sided instalove if it’s the whole book but actually a few days? However, aside from two memorable moments, I didn’t really get chemistry between them beyond friends.
It pains me to say this, but while this was super entertaining, I fear it won’t be memorable for me. In the moment it’s great, but it didn’t feel bold enough a retelling to stick with me down the road. I’m fairly certain that if I were to try writing this review in a week, it would be a lot shorter.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jenny Elder Moke writes young adult fiction in an attempt to recapture the shining infinity of youth. She was a finalist in the 2017 Austin Film Festival Podcast Competition, and studied children’s writing with Liz Garton Scanlon.
When she is not writing, she’s gathering story ideas from her daily adventures with her two irredeemable rapscallions and honing her ninja skills as a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Jenny lives in Austin, TX with her husband and two children.
Her debut novel, HOOD, about the daughter of Robin Hood and Maid Marien, will release from Disney/Hyperion in Spring 2020. She is represented by Elizabeth Bewley of Sterling Lord Literistic.
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