I received this book courtesy of NetGalley.
This was… completely bonkers.
Some context: I studied medieval history at bit at uni, and I also did a subject about medievalism in modern society; I did an essay on Robin Hood. I am by no means an expert, of course, but I have some awareness of the whole mythology. Which is why I was so excited to read this. I had loved what Tidhar did with the Arthurian stuff in By Force Alone, and I was wide-eyed at what he would do here. The Robin Hood stuff is so wide-ranging – in history and in modern incarnation (Disney’s version is still the best) – that there’s just so much to play with.
Fascinatingly, Tidhar begins with Maid Marian, and goes somewhere I didn’t expect at all. And then goes to Will Scarlett, and likewise. And then to Rebecca – riffing off Ivanhoe – and… well, there’s a very long section of the story that’s exploring things other than a man with a bow and arrow and Lincoln green. In fact, I would argue that “Robin Hood” is probably the least important main character in the entire narrative. Which is a very interesting choice and one I’m still chewing over. Many of the characters recognisable from old and new stories make an appearance – Guy of Gisborne, the sheriff of Nottingham, Sherwood Forest, Little John and Tuck and Much the miller’s son – although perhaps not as you would expect them (that aspect I’m completely happy with).
The different sections, especially in perhaps the first third, are almost like stand-alone ballads; and maybe that’s intentional, reflecting the structure of those early, medieval ‘Gestes’. But it is somewhat disconcerting if you come to this expecting a straightforward “Robin Hood story” – because it definitely isn’t. I have no problem with this idea; disjointed narratives can be brilliant. Many of the early ideas do eventually have their pay-off later in the narrative, and often in quite clever ways; but it often didn’t feel like enough of a pay-off given the set up. I think perhaps there’s not enough of a crescendo – I finished the book feeling a little flat, a little lost – surprised: “is that it?”
(For those having read By Force Alone: that too was somewhat chaotic, but to me it always seemed like a coherent chaos. In contrast, I think The Hood doesn’t always succeed in coherence, narrative or character wise.)
Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the book. It’s a rollicking ride from the Anarchy of Stephen and Matilda’s civil war of the 1140s through to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th Crusades; Tidhar incorporates a surprising and unexpected amount of English history that’s usually not connected to the Robin Hood stories at all, commenting along the way. There’s an excellent range of characters, all stubbornly themselves and threatening to break away and live their own damned lives, thanks all the same. It’s not always easy to read – Tidhar clearly has a love of language and he likes playing with repetition and surprising slang – but it’s also not a slog.
I have no regrets about having read The Hood, and I will read whatever books Tidhar puts out in the Matter of Britain series (I think I heard it described as a quadrology, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what else will be included).
Getting through Great Scott!
A: And so we come to the only film on our list that neither of us has seen. This promises to be interesting. I have an abiding fascination with Robin Hood: both visually (I will quote the animated version at you; I don’t care if you disapprove of my adolescent love of the Costner version) and academically (Stephen Knight’s history is awesome). So… I’m a bit scared.
J: In ye olde times …
A: Yikes look at that font.
So, 12th century eh. Blanchett already being forceful, with a bow? I’m pleased. A flaming arrow!
J: More ye olde times …
A: Robin Longstride, eh? That’s different. But it’s still Richard not-so-lion-heart’s time. AND we’re actually on crusade with Rusty! (wait, not crusade – this is France, surely, with Richard more interested in running French bits than his English territory)
J: So basically it’s Gladiator … gosh I hope it’s not as slow. I wonder if they will show the archer’s paradox… slow motions arrows n all. Continue reading →
We saw the final episode of this in the UK – oops. But it did get us quite excited about the fact that ABC bought it, and it started tonight.
It’s pretty bad, and pretty good at the same time.
Oh, the action
The music – very Superman/Star Wars
So, so may cliches
Two arrows at once?!
Robin is short
Oh, the action
Robin has to work for Marion
The music – very Superman/Star Wars
Very, very modern
OK, so overall it was pretty bad. Definitely no Ivanhoe, Will Scarlet is no Christian Slater, the scenery didn’t even try to emulate 1190s reality (1190s? Didn’t he mention it was Urban II’s crusade??). But the sheriff – he is SO bad; and Guy of Gisborne, from what I have seen in this and the final episode, walks that wonderfully fine line of being bad but evoking a fair amount of sympathy from the audience – enough that it makes things a little bit uncomfortable for them, And, to make matters worse in the UK, just after the final episode was the Christmas episode of the Vicar of Dibley, in which the actor who plays Guy was the romantic lead… very, very funny.
I think I will be watching more. If only to find out how the Arabic girl (oops, slight spoiler there) makes it into the Merry Men.