Review: Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

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The infamous Robin Hood is dead…

And that is where Sherwood begins.

We have been on a really great streak here at The Librarian Box as far as books we’ve been reading. January’s box, Wicked King, has a cliffhanger that has left pretty much the entire YA Fantasy community feeling devastated. Februrary’s captivating Enchantee has just been sent out, and we know you are going to love Camille’s adventures in Paris. And now our March box will be focused on Sherwood, a book that I literally couldn’t stop reading and forced myself to slow down, so it wasn’t over too quickly.

Many of us grew up with the tale of Robin Hood. For the kids of the 90’s, watching Disney’s fox cartoon version, amirite? And for Mel Brooks fans, Robin Hood: Men in Tights (TIGHT tights!) Even as a kid, it was such a romantic notion of stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Who wouldn’t want to be in the merry band of outlaws, giving The Man his comeuppance?

But as we get older - we learn situations are rarely black and white. More frequently, we are forced to make decisions in shades of gray. That is exactly where Marion finds herself, after the death of Robin Hood, when she dons his cloak and picks up his bow - and is forced to become a leader and bear all the responsibilities of becoming one.

Three things made me fall in love with Sherwood. First, Meagen Spooner has a true talent for crafting nuanced characters. Characters we assume are “good” or “evil” (as seen through Marion’s eyes) become nebulous in their deeds. We are forced to question our initial interpretation and find new conclusions. Good people do bad things, and evil characters show touches of humanity. This kept the book grounded, for me as a reader, that just because it was a “fairy tale,” Spooner didn’t take the easy way out by creating two-dimensional characters.

Second, Spooner spoke to grief in a way I’ve never seen portrayed in a YA book. I admit I am ten… maybe fifteen years outside the “normal” YA reading age, so sometimes I get bored with books that to me, smack of ignorance of the real world and situations you deal with as an adult. Sherwood was in no way like that. While any teenager will enjoy this book, Spooner’s realistic and heartfelt examination of what it feels like to lose a loved one spoke to me. I love that Marion wrestles with the death of Robin through the course of the book, instead of finding her quick-fix as she becomes a plucky heroine with a dead shot. That’s not real life, and frankly, that’s not a story I’d care to read.

Finally, I love Spooner’s take on crafting a strong, female heroine. I was a bit wary of how this book would go, as I just had come off of another gender bender tale that bored me so much I couldn’t finish it. But Marion is exactly the type of heroine I want in my books - and moreover, Spooner’s understated crafting of Marion’s voice gives just the right touch of feminism to this book. Marion chooses her own path, makes her own decisions and wrestles with the consequences - not AS Robin Hood, trying to fill a man’s shoes - but as herself. The cloak and the bow are only the trappings of the character, not the heart within - much like Sherwood itself.

Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer