by Robin McKinley – I love how McKinley is able to flesh mythical or fictional/fairy-tale characters until we can identify with them as people. It’s a gift she shares with us in all of her books. This one is no exception, although it succeeds to a lesser extent than some of her other works. We meet all of the “classical” Sherwood characters over the first half of the book, while the outlaws are building their camp and their renown. In the second half, the scope of the book narrows to the conflict between Robin and the sheriff of Nottingham. The action becomes deadly serious then, with little of the lightness that made the first half feel a little, well, fluffy. The action sequences in the last half are brutal and ugly, with characters being pushed beyond their ken for their friends and for their survival.
I found it a little more difficult to get into this novel, perhaps because the POV jumps so frequently and mostly from one male character to another. I’d have preferred to spend more time in Marian’s head, or in Robin’s, as they battle their inner demons in dealing with their changed lives, their new roles and their feelings for one another. That said, it was pretty easy to get swept up in the action of the second half, and even to put that other “girly” stuff out of my head for whole chapters at a time.
Overall, this is not McKinley’s strongest book, so I would hope people who are curious about her will start with Chalice or Sunshine or Beauty. They will find themselves hooked on McKinley’s magical vision and writing. (finished 9/1/11)