Hunter of Sherwood: Knight of Shadows by Toby Venables

This is a book that turns our accepted Robin Hood myths on their head, where Robin is a villain and those traditionally cast as the baddies, well, aren’t.

Turning the tradition on its head

The novel tells the story of Guy of Gisburne (traditionally Robin’s rival for the love of Maid Marian and a bit of a bad’un), a knight hired by Prince John to thwart a planned handover of a precious relic from the Knights Templar to the King of France. Guy, previously a mercenary, sets off to find it – whilst saddled with an unpromising old squire and is helped along the way by a beautiful (yet mysterious) French noblewoman.

I’ll admit that I found this to be a hard read, at least initially. The Robin Hood stories never really interested me and this is definitely not a book I would normally picked up. I found the bravura and fighting a bit blokey for my tastes and struggled to like the characters.

Feisty females make it great

However, about halfway through, the female character takes more of a stage and she, at least, is interesting. She’s brave, feisty and utterly terrifying – a bit like a grown up Merida from Brave with a grudge and a French accent. I found her a much more interesting character; the male characters (and events) were pretty predictable for me.

Although this wasn’t my cup of tea, I think this could be a great book for anyone who is a Game of Thrones fan, or a teenage boy who loves fantasy and could be persuaded to join those of us who are paid-up members of the historical fiction fan club. It has action, adventure and, er, added scorpions.

I believe it’s the start of a series, so maybe I would be tempted to pick up the next book at the library, but not enough to buy it. I’ll be passing on my copy to a friend who’s a Robin Hood obsessive!

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