Robin Hood: Mark of the Black Arrow by Debbie Viguié and James R. Tuck
Series: Demon’s Bane #1
Publication: August 4th 2015 by Titan Books
Format: Paperback Pages: 384
‘A vast darkness is spreading. If left unchecked, it will engulf the world, and so Richard the Lionheart must depart England on a holy mission. In his absence, the safety of the realm is entrusted to his brother, Prince John.
When the king departs, black sorcery begins to grip the land, threatening noble and peasant alike. Horrific creatures stalk the forests, yet the violence they commit pales when compared to the atrocities of men. A handful of rebels fight back, but are doomed to fail unless they can find a hero to lead them.’ – Goodreads
It probably takes a lot of courage to write a retelling. I mean, you’re rewriting something a lot of readers already love and would most likely drop kick you for ruining. I’ve read a fair share of lousy retellings so I always approach with care now. However, I’m still a fan of them because I feel like the good ones, and I mean the really good ones, can reopen and expand on the story you once loved. So, I’m going to review retellings more often and will eventually craft a mega review post with my top ten or something.
The majority of you have probably already heard of the most popular Beauty and the Beast, Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella retellings; they’re everywhere. But today, I bring you a Robin Hood retelling. Yup, Robin-freaking-Hood. I was thinking of the television show, Arrow, when this book’s blurb landed in my inbox, but it wasn’t anything like Arrow, and I actually enjoyed it. (I stopped watching Arrow after four episodes, Oliver Queen’s self-righteousness got on my nerves). Plus, this retelling features magic (the dark kind) and some really scary characters that almost make it a horror (or maybe I’m just a super wimp).
Robin Hood: Mark of the Black Arrow is the first of the Demon’s Bane trilogy and it takes its sweet time building on characters and plot. I found this a little slow at first and wanted to hurry up and get to the action, but I appreciated it later on because it made the reading experience better and I understood the characters’ decisions. I was surprised at how central Marian was to the storyline; I expected her to be someone in the background who only showed up as Robin’s love interest, but she was far more important and held her own. Both the ‘goodies’ and the ‘baddies’ were intriguing. The Sheriff was some kind of demon thing – his exact nature wasn’t revealed in this book, and I particularly loved Will Scarlet’s dialogues and interactions with Robin and Marian. The story is split into different characters’ points of view, all in the third-person; I didn’t like this because there were too many viewpoints coming in from a lot of different (some very minor) characters. It would have made more sense to tell the story from fewer, more important characters.
Historically speaking, there were some weird bits. For example, the unquestioned presence of magic in England during the Crusades. I enjoyed the magical elements to the story but felt like more explanations could have been given, like how exactly are these characters so chill about magic?
As I mentioned before, the real action didn’t happen until later on (around 150 pages in); I’m putting that down to this book existing specifically to introduce us to the characters and the situation. It ended with a cliff-hanger and I was absorbed enough to want to carry straight onto the Robin Hood: The Two Torcs – the second book in the trilogy, which is why I’m bumping the rating to 3.5 stars.