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Robin Hood and the Beasts of Sherwood: Clayton Emery's Tales of Robin Hood Paperback – 6 Jan 2002
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About the Author
Clayton Emery grew up playing Robin Hood in the forests of Maine. He's been a blacksmith, dishwasher, schoolteacher, carpenter, zookeeper, farmhand, land surveyor, volunteer firefighter, and award-winning technical writer. He's the author of many "Robin & Marian" mystery shorts and a dozen fantasy-adventures. He counts among his accomplishments once taking tea with the Sheriff of Nottingham.
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The story is steeped in the earthy and sometimes brutal realities of medieval life. Sherwood, moreover, teems with wildlife, which Emery describes with a naturalist's attention to detail. Counterpoised to this realism are magical elements that reflect the sort of mythic approach to the legend that first became popular among 19th century folklorists, and later characterized the British cult TV series _Robin of Sherwood_ in the 1980s.
Most notable among the new characters in the novel are the women of Sherwood, who include a former prioress, an elderly midwife, a witch, a bold fighting "yeoman", and several mothers with young children. These women are not passive maidens in distress, waiting to be rescued; they use their own physical strength, courage, and intelligence to protect themselves, their forest home, and their community from danger.
The villains of the piece are also noteworthy. Robin and his valiant band must contend not only with their traditional enemies, the Sheriff's men and Guy of Gisborne, but with eerie forces beyond their understanding, which threaten the outlaws' very existence in Sherwood.
As the story unfolds, Robin himself must face his own spiritual doubts about his way of life, while assessing the political and personal consequences of his equivocal relationship with King Richard. How far dare Robin go, without endangering those he leads?
With its compelling blend of realism, mysticism, and adventure, _The Beasts of Sherwood_ is a welcome addition to the contemporary canon of Robin Hood fiction.
Robin Hood's world is created here through the lens of modern attitudes and for the most part, the combination succeeds. There is a sense of '60's communal family life with several of the band married and with children, living in cottages but holding the group's goods in common. Tasks are also less rigidly separated by sex. Men do a fair amount of parenting and women are not averse to being crack archers in both contests of skill and actual fighting.
Greater issues than simply a plot line are suggested. Robin Hood may often be reminiscent of Peter Pan in Nevernever Land but he is troubled by the extensive authority over this group that its members have accorded him. The only jarring element is the outlaw group's encounter with the king. The action felt too extreme--not in keeping with Robin's equivocal attitude regarding authority. The sheriff of Nottingham also seemed less the traditional enemy and Sir Guy more a blackguard than might be necessary but the overall high quality of the other elements more than outweighs these minor complaints. This is Robin Hood for grownups who have never quite relinquished their childhood.