Hunter of Sherwood I: Knight of Shadows
This re-imagining of the Robin Hood legends is fixed firmly in 1191 – King Richard away on crusade, Prince John plotting at home, Hood hiding out in Sherwood. The familiar legend has it all wrong, though. Hood and King Richard are not heroes, they are sociopaths and war-bringers. The only man with England’s true interests at heart is the much-maligned John – and his able henchman, Guy of Gisburne.
On one level, this is a pure adventure narrative. It opens with a filmic, Ninja-style raid on the White Tower, continues with a quest plot offering ample action, a romance, good pace and plenty of gore. It is well-written and exciting, an Assassin’s Creed type of story in book form.
But Gisburne is not just an action hero. We also read his back story, his training to be a knight, his experience of the Holy Land, and he emerges as a likeable, rational, humanist hero, with a 21st-century take on the morals of his time.
Knight of Shadows is very readable, and gets the political facts of its history just about right (though very slanted) – but I don’t think it makes any attempt to inhabit the history. The Knights Templar villain is particularly a creature of fantasy literature, more Calvinist than Catholic, but really pure invention.
Knight is published as fantasy, but it is an interesting hybrid of fantasy and historical fiction. It is certainly adds to the Hood canon, and I will follow the sequels.
Early Medieval (to 1337)
Hunter of Sherwood 1: Knight of Shadows