Review copy provided by the author, who is a long-time friend.
I was obsessed with Arthurian legends in my early adolescence, as I think a lot of kids that age are and especially a lot of kids that age in that period were. I also read Robin McKinley’s Outlaws of Sherwood, and somewhere along the line it occurred to me to wonder why there weren’t more Robin Hood novels. On the surface there was a strong similarity with Arthurian stories: both British, both featuring nearly infinitely expandable bands of buddies and sidekicks and character actors, both romantic and action-packed. But the shelves were packed with the one, nearly empty of the other. Why?
One of the theories I formulated was that the Arthur story has a narrative arc, whereas the Robin Hood story’s arc, when it has one, is a deus ex machina: King Richard returns and all is well through no particular action on the characters’ part. It’s not even ripe to be a picaresque because nobody really goes anywhere. It’s full of episode without direction. In order to have an actual novel, I speculated, you’d have to add a lot to the basic Robin Hood story.
Brightfall is basically exhibit A for this theory. This is a Robin Hood novel, no mistake, but Jaime brought so much to the table. Witchcraft! The Fair Folk! A dragon! Entirely new characters completely separate from the extensive original cast! Plot that extends in time–that, in fact, starts–far after the glory days of the Merry Men, that gives Maid Marian her own home and priorities and life–a life that can be disrupted by nefarious plots from another realm.
Also Robin Hood is a complete butt in this book.
Seriously, though. A. Complete. Butt. But it’s not one of those books where the author doesn’t recognize it; a good third of the dialog is approximately: Someone: Why are you such a butt, Robin Hood? RH: …I dunwanna talk about it. Is he not a butt in the end? Well, that’s for you to find out for yourself. Marian gets an earned happy ending, I’ll promise you that, but with whom and how and when is for you to find out.