The Arrow of Sherwood
The subject and storyline of this novel will surprise no one who has been reading or watching films over the past fifty years or so, as it is the well-known and many-times-told tale of Robin Hood and his (in this incarnation) not-so-merry men. The usual suspects are present and correct, if in unfamiliar spellings: Friar Tok, Will Scarlette, Marion and so on, and yes, they steal from the rich and divide the spoils with the poor, and they hide in Sherwood Forest.
It is in many ways a novel about class war, however. The law favours the lords, and their word is worth much more than that of a mere peasant. One reason that Robin is successful with his raids and redistribution of wealth is his exploitation of his position as a lord, albeit a disinherited and exiled one.
The book is set during the 12th century and is historically accurate, with interesting details about clothes, beliefs, religious and ceremonial practices and particularly weapons. It portrays a more negative view of King Richard than is seen in the films of this story. Here, he clearly dislikes being argued with and is shown as being quite a money-lover, all of which is more in accord with historical accounts than the somewhat romanticised figure seen elsewhere. Full of historical detail, this retelling of an old story puts new flesh on familiar bones. It’s written in an entertaining style and worth a nostalgic revisit if you haven’t seen the films for a while.