From School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-In this gritty, complicated origin tale of Robin Hood, the exalted King Richard the Lionheart is kidnapped and his brother, Prince John, decides to make a play for the throne. He sends his mercenary captain, Sir Guy of Gisborne, to Shackley Manor to test the regent's political leanings, and the manor's heir, young Will Shackley, is tricked into injuring Sir Guy's servant. The castle regent, knowing this is a ploy to hold Will hostage and secure his support, refuses to let him be taken and is assassinated. Frightened for his life and filled with thoughts of revenge, Will flees to the haunted Sherwood Forest where he is captured by bandits. He adopts the name Will Scarlet and tempts their cruel leader into sending him and a small contingent back to Shackley Castle with promises of easy riches. The plot, full to the brim with political intrigue, scandal, and revenge, moves at a slow but steady pace. Where the story really shines is in the fully developed characters. Several well-known heroes and villains are described from a perspective different from the familiar archetypes. Robin Hood is a drunk running away from a broken heart; the Sheriff of Nottingham is a fair but weak-willed peacekeeper; and Will Scarlet discovers what life is truly like for his serfs and intends to do all he can for them. The politics and geography are mapped in great detail, which may become cumbersome to those not familiar with feudal government, barring casual or reluctant readers from truly digging into this action-packed and thoughtful adventure story.-Devin Burritt, Wells Public Library, MEα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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It’s 1192, and 13-year-old Will Shackley wants to leave his mischievous boyhood behind and prove himself. His father, the lord of Shackley Manor, followed King Richard to the Crusades. Now the manor is threatened by Sir Guy, Prince John’s representative. After wounding Sir Guy’s manservant with a sword, Will becomes an outlaw and flees to Sherwood Forest, taking the name Will Scarlet. He joins a ragtag band of thieves and, bent on revenge, throws himself into adventures that force him to face hard truths and figure out where his path lies. Cody gradually draws Will’s story into the framework of Robin Hood lore, but he lets the characters develop as individuals, with their own backstories and concerns, rather than figures playing stock roles on the stage of legend. The cartoonlike simplicity of the jacket art is at odds with the darker, more nuanced tenor of the writing. As the narrative progresses, the pace and dramatic intensity pick up. Cody offers a rewarding historical novel with the appealing possibility of more to come featuring Will and his companions. Grades 4-7. --Carolyn Phelan
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