Shadow of the Wolf by Tim Hall
|Shadow of the Wolf by Tim Hall|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A reworking of Robin Hood blending legend, folklore and fantasy; a brave idea that pays off and promises much for the future.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 450||Date: July 2014|
|Publisher: David Fickling Books|
The child Robin Loxley is mysteriously separated from his father during what had been a routine foray into the forest. In grief and bewilderment Robin becomes a loner, choosing to raise himself. He's more than happy with the solitary lifestyle until he meets Marian Delbosque, spoilt daughter of local gentry. Their friendship is cemented as they play together but their future won't all be childish games. They have a quest and Robin, as a winter-born, has a destiny that he can't begin to guess. The clue is in the mysterious words he heard whispered in the forest after his father's disappearance: Not yet. Too soon. He must suffer the wounds.
As I live in the city that’s made a pound or two from Robin Hood (yes, that city), I couldn't resist Tim Hall's debut novel that 'reimagines' the legend of the local lad. Indeed the legend has been reimagined a few times and even the original chap is reputedly a mixture of three people. So where does Tim's Robin sit in the spectrum of Hoods? Looking at the media representations, let's say he's more Clannad-backed Michael Praed than Hollywood-backed Kevin Costner but even that doesn’t say it all.
This Robin exists in an alternative world which seems like ours but things like taps on medieval bath tubs would hint otherwise. Tim gets the short bow right though. Ignore any picture you see of Robin using a long bow; he would never have been able to draw it far enough back without whacking a tree with his arm! Speaking of bows, there's one line that confused me in the novel concerning being able to sling an unstrung bow across his back. Well, I have it on expert authority that 'unstrung' means that the string is loosened, not that it isn't there at all, so it is possible. Anyway, I digress…
Tim subtly mingles folklore with legend and new twists. The Green Man of ancient myth and a sylvan shape shifting goddess fight over Robin's mortal soul creating at least one 'trippy' sequence that could be a dream or it may not.
This Robin is also completely in the thrall of the spoilt brattish Marian (who may not be all she seems either) as they close in on their target, the facially disfigured Sheriff of Nottingham. That's not changed - the Sheriff is still a baddie surrounded by an entourage imbued with differing hues of baddiness. Intriguingly this band includes a name that will make Robinophiles wonder what he's doing on that side of the fence but I'm sure the answer will come.
In fact the joy of this novel is that no one is an out and out goody as Tim goes for the fashionable fantasy-flawed-hero approach. In Robin's case his flaws seem to emanate from his confusion over feelings for Marian and the differing advice he seems to attract. Still, if he thinks this is bad, he just needs to wait as by the end of the novel he has suffered at least one profound disability.
I have only one minor moan: by the end of the book I got bored with the one-on-one Marian and Robin scenes, desperately wanting to get back to the action. Don't let this put you off though. If you aren't reviewing the book, fast forwarding is an option. For me this was the only downside. I loved the action, the dark brooding mysticality and the promise of more to come. Indeed, the mid-teens Robin we leave has changed greatly from the child Robin we first meet for so many reasons (one of them unfortunately 'spoilered' by the cover).
Tim's Robin may not match the statue of the lad outside a castle a few miles thataway but that's part of this book's allure. Indeed, you may well have something here, Mr Hall, and I'm looking forward to the next instalment.
(We'd like to thank David Fickling Books for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you want to read more about Mr of Loxley, we recommend Outlaw: The Story of Robin Hood. Ignore the fact it's a children's book – it's Michael Morpurgo! If we can't sway you and you would like something more adult, try Hood by Stephen R Lawhead.
You can read more book reviews or buy Shadow of the Wolf by Tim Hall at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Shadow of the Wolf by Tim Hall at Amazon.com.
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