September 14, 2012
Child of the May by Theresa Tomlinson, Sequel to Forestwife
Magda, the daughter of Little John and Emma (deceased) has grown up in Barnsdale Forest under the care of Marian, the Forestwife. At 15, she grows restless and longs to experience life outside the forest. She gets her chance when John & Marian allow her to accompany Robin & the Merry Men on a quest to rescue the noblewoman Matilda and her daughter Isabel. They have both been imprisoned by the sheriff until Matilda agrees to allow Isabel to marry FitzRanulf, the sheriff’s bloodthirsty mercenary chief. At first stubborn and petulant, Magda grows a lot as a character as the book progresses. She learns that life outside the forest isn’t as fun and glamorous as she thought. This was a short and easy to read book- about the level of 10-13 year olds or so. But I enjoyed it as a fun adventure, as well as a story with depth and historical realism. I think older teens and adults who like Robin Hood legends and stories set in the Middle Ages would like it.
Read March 2011
Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt
In a time of poverty and famine, stories abound of Jackaroo, a highwayman who helps the poor. Gwyn, an innkeeper’s daughter thinks this is all nonsense. Yet her life begins to change after a Lord and his son ask her to accompany them on a map-making expedition. As Gwyn learns more about the world around her, she starts to wonder if Jackaroo is in fact a real person.
This book has a slow pace, but I enjoy the poetic descriptions.It’s refreshing to have a focus on ordinary peasant characters when so much of fantasy is focused on the upper class.
It seems rather light on magical elements, and the world, simply called “the Kingdom” is fairly generic. I liked seeing a different take on the Robin Hood concept, and Voigt challenges us to wonder about the origin of legends.
Read March 2010
December 18, 2009
Robin Hood by J.C. Holt
Who was Robin Hood, if the man existed, and how has the lore surrounding him evolved? J.C. Holt traces the legend of Robin Hood back to the area of Wakefield and Barnsdale forest in 1225.
One of the key things that I learned from this book was the distinction between tales taking place in Barnsdale vs. Sherwood forests. I realized that growing up, I heard the Sherwood stories, in which Robin and his Merry Men fight against the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham. Whereas the older Barnsdale stories had an abbot and others as enemies.
Holt pieces together evidence of the geography of the legends, the audience they were directed at- originally yeomen, a class of household servants and how they spread and developed later on. He bemoans the obscuring of the older tales and their in his opinion, debasing.
Though it was quite informative, I also found parts of it to be rather dry. I think it’s better to read this if you’re more familiar with the Robin Hood legends. As I have just begun studying them, I realized I kind of jumped into the deep end of the pool with this one!
Read in April 2009
March 9, 2009
The Forestwife by Theresa Tomlinson
Fleeing an unwanted forced marriage, orphan Mary runs away to the woods of England. She is worried about the wild creatures and outlaws that live there, but willing to take her chances. Her nurse Agnes follows her, and proves to be an essential companion and mentor, who is knowledgeable of herbal healing and wilderness survival. They become part of a community of people who live in the forest avoiding the oppression of local lords, including Agnes’ son Robert.
The idea of a Forestwife, a wisewoman healer who lives in the woods is cool, and makes sense- wouldn’t the Merry Men need a healer? And I also like the description of the seasons and what people did in preparation/reaction to them.
The story was well-told, and historical authenticity fleshed out the feel of the setting. The dialogue uses a lot of archaic words, which might be difficult for some, but I found it understandable.
It seemed like Theresa Tomlinson really did her research, and it helps that she grew up in the areas associated with the Robin Hood legends! This is part of a trilogy, the other books are Child of the May, and Path of the She-Wolf, the latter has only been published in the UK unfortunately. However it does look like there are copies available online for decent prices.