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Robin Hood; Mark of Black Arrow
Debbie Viguie and James R Tuck
Richard the Lionheart goes on crusade, leaving his brother John in charge of the country, but trusts his neice Maid Marian to send word if she needs Richard’s help following John’s decision making. In the wake of Richard’s departure, supernatural things start to happen in Nottingham and the surrounding area at a great pace.
Viguie and Tuck have a very descriptive style, and don’t shy away from writing in detail about physical injury. Within the prologue a ‘witch’ has her leg mauled by a huntsman’s dog leaving her with ‘stretched tethers of gristle’. It feels like they have been influenced in some ways by the success of Game of Thrones, and have adapted the Robin Hood legends to appeal more to that target audience.
Robin Hood is redrawn slightly to make him darker than some of his literary forebears, which could be more realistic in a way. If he actually had existed, then it’s not very likely that he would have always been as lighthearted when fighting as Errol Flynn and others have portrayed him. Tuck and Viguie write him in a softer way when he is interacting with Marian, and his younger sisters, and thinking about them.
Will Scarlet is now Robin’s cousin, and acts as a spy within the Prince’s court reporting back to Robin. It’s a change from the traditional version of the angry widower who saw his wife being raped and killed by Norman soldiers.
Alan a Dale is a Druid who uses a ancient harp, and can manipulate through song.
Maid Marian has a bigger role to play in terms of physical action than some of the previous incarnations. The attraction between her and Robin is one thread that has stayed, and it’s a effective way to show different sides of Robin.
The Sheriff is much more involved in the ‘Dark Arts’ in this version, and is at the heart of the supernatural events. He is technically the brains of the ‘evil’, telling Prince John what he has to do.
It’s a interesting take on the legends, and I actually read the second book in the series, The Two Torcs first, because my local library didn’t have the first one on their shelves. It was well written, and reignited the interest that I had in the legends when I was a child, enough for me to want to read the first one. They do have interconnecting strands but are well explained and structured enough to allow readers to understand the plot, in case they find themselves in the same situation as I did.