Friday, October 12, 2007

LADY OF THE FOREST by Jennifer Roberson

I'm sure there's not many people out there who aren't aware of the basic story of Robin Hood and Maid Marian. Not to mention the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Robin's merry band of men. This book is simply one account of how it "could have happened." If you're expecting a similar telling to anything you've seen in the movies (Prince of Thieves comes to mind), you are probably going to be a bit surprised by its content. But it's a great book, simple as that.

Brief Synopsis (at least I'll try): Robert, son of the Earl of Huntington has recently returned home from The Crusades, where he was held prisoner of war for some time. During the war, he served as the right hand man of King Richard, and is harboring a dark secret about the fate of Sir Hugh FitzWalter, the father of Marian FitzWalter. Before dying, Hugh entreated Robert to carry a message to his only daughter. Weary of war and death, Robert tries to find his place back in England when all he wants is to free the King, who is being held prisoner in Germany.

Marian FitzWalter is motherless, and now fatherless, and is just now ending a year of mourning over her father's death. As a ward of the Crown, this means she is available for marriage--a fact that puts her in a great deal of peril. To put it simply, she is highly sought after and has caught the eye of William deLacey, the Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, amongst others.

Thrown together at Robert's welcome home celebration, Robert at last delivers Marian's father's dying wish -- for her to marry deLacey. But it's quite obvious there's something else that he didn't tell her, something that haunts him and makes him feel an obligation to protect her. When Marian is later snatched and carried away into Sherwood Forest by Will Scarlet, Robert pursues them, determined to do right by the daughter of the man he failed.

And so begins one hell of an adventure. One that finds Robert becoming the person known as Robin Hood, determined to raise the King's ransom and bring him home to England before the King's younger brother steals the crown out from beneath him.

Oh man, that doesn't even begin to describe it. LOL. Oh well, it's too complicated to sum up.

I'll admit that the first couple of chapters were a tad overwhelming. Roberson's writing style is very vivid -- almost to a point it's too much and you feel overloaded with detail. I'm not sure what changed--whether I grew accustomed or what, but once I got into the book, there was NO turning back until I finished.

This book is NON-stop. It's from one thing to the next and you simply have to keep turning the pages to find out what will happen next. Filled with scheming and intrigues, it is a complicated book that doesn't allow you to ever truly say: Okay, this character is on Marian's side... this character is going to support Robert, and so forth. Everyone has their own agenda, and goodness they are conniving. There are so many interesting subplots and secondary characters... remarkable Roberson managed to keep it all straight. (g) But the great thing is that she carries it off seamlessly. Wow, what a writer.

Not much to complain about. I found the romance to be a major thread in the story, but not overwhelmingly sappy to the point you'd consider this a straight romance. No, it's more of an adventure with a strong romantic element. I've seen the movies, heard the legends... I knew how it would end up between the two of them. But I couldn't stop reading until THEY knew how it was supposed to be. (g)

And of course -- the sheriff. Gah, what a slimeball. (g) The constant threat he posed created so much tension, that of course the book wouldn't be the same without him. So, I loved to hate him. :)

Little John, Will Scarlet, and the rest of the merry bandits... gotta love them.

All in all, a great read. Hmmm...I have Lady of Sherwood on my shelf...

Buy or Rent? BUY!!

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