This book was published in 1991, a time when you wouldn't really expect a serious writer to look afresh at such an overworked subject, but after only a few pages it becomes clear that this really is a fresh look. It has a completely different tone to the men-in-tights adventures made familiar by Hollywood. It is more gritty, more realistic, more human, and you could almost swear Godwin must have been there back in 11th century Nottinghamshire to tell the tale as he does. He is inside the minds of the characters, living their lives, speaking their thoughts and words with a detail that, coupled with his knowledge of history, conjures reality. His picture of the grimness and closeness-to-nature of medieval English peasant life is vivid. The familiar characters are there - Marian, Little John, Will, Friar Tuck, the Sheriff - but not quite as they have been portrayed before. Kings John and Richard are absent, as Godwin breaks with tradition in setting the story at the time of the Norman Conquest instead of the Crusades. Robin is depicted as a Saxon farmer and minor noble, driven to oppose the Norman invaders in the face of increasing oppression. The tale is spun well, and is an absorbing read. Godwin says in the epilogue that the story of Robin Hood is not factual history, but a legend likely based on the exploits of a real man, or perhaps several men, who defied unjust laws and opposed the abuse of power. As it is not even clear which century he lived in, this gives Godwin poetic licence as to when the tale is set. Godwin's story is, after all, fiction, and his placing the tale in the 11th century works well, probably because he is such a good writer that the story and characters are believable. Indeed, by the time you get to the end of it you are quite prepared to believe that these characters really lived and this is actually how their story played out.