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In a Dark Wood by Michael Cadnum

In a Dark Wood

by Michael Cadnum

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As with a few books I've gotten via Netgalley from Open Road Media, I have had a paperback copy of this book kicking around for-virtually-ever. It's Robin Hood – of course I have. Though it is told from the point of view of the Sheriff, which has not been awfully successful in my experience… Still, it has had all sorts of acclaim and … well, Robin Hood. So much potential.

Unfortunately, this Sheriff is kind of a putz.

Sorry, but that's the word that was uppermost in my mind throughout. He is completely overwhelmed by his wife (I think that was his wife); he frets about what to wear to go see an important visitor ("We want to seem comfortable, but manly"). He makes the visitor wait to make himself appear more important.

Michael Cadnum caused damage to a theory of mine, to wit: a boar hunt in a medieval or fantasy setting is going to result in the severe injury or death of a named character, or at least a dog. Not here, though – the only death is the boar's. Oh well.

The writing is extremely self-conscious ("'I know all about what goes on in the forest,' she said, and long after her skitterish horse and nervous dogs had slipped by the carcass, her words hung round him like a necklace of thorns." – What?), and in its self-consciousness is stiff and stolid, like … like a yokel dressed up in satin and paraded in front of an important visitor. Perhaps it is in an effort to give the story a grounding in reality that there are all sorts of bodily functions described needlessly ("The horse was stocky and shaggy. It shat…")

This was not what I was looking for. Abandoned.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review. ( )
  Stewartry | Mar 30, 2016 |
The Robin Hood legend is retold from the perspective of Geoffrey, Sheriff of Nottingham, in this lyrically descriptive and quietly emotional novel. All-too-human, the Sheriff is nevertheless a “worthy” man, devoted to his duty, more honorable than cruel. Haunted by a sense of emptiness and futility, and consumed by the feeling of being trapped in his life, Geoffrey is slowly awakened to a greater sense of joy, and of self, by his dealings with the outlaw Robin. As the story unfolds, the Sheriff gradually finds himself more comfortable in his skin, better able to communicate his affection to his squire Hugh, and surprised to discover that he loves and is loved by his wife, Lady Eleanor.

Cadnum gives an excellent sense of the brutality of the times, grounding his story firmly in the historical. The tone is frequently reflective, almost as if pondering the borders between the human and the mythological, but also humorous, as in this exchange between Geoffrey and Robin:
"For my part, I wish you were like other thieves."
"More stupid?"
"More joyless." ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jun 20, 2013 |
I think I'm going to end up writing my Robin Hood essay on this book. It's an interesting position to take for it: writing sympathetically about the Sheriff, making him the main character -- having no particular "bad guy". So much of Robin Hood fiction involves fighting the bad guys -- The Sheriff, Prince John, Guy of Gisborne -- that it seems odd to have a book that is more contemplative, more about emotional growth than about action and politics. You'd expect Robin Hood stories to be more about the fighting, the action and adventure and dashing men (in tights), but there's relatively little of that and it's certainly not the point.

I need to sit down and think about this, and find more comparisons from other Robin Hood stories, before I can write my essay -- it's not easy to think how to frame it, because it is so different. I can tell why I've read lukewarm reactions to this -- it isn't the vibrant Robin Hood that we're so used to: it's quieter and more contemplative. Worth reading, though, for giving depth and realism to the story. I think I wanted more of it, if anything -- more of Geoffrey learning to express his feelings, more about why he loves Hugh and Eleanor, and more of his strange affection with Robin Hood. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
An excellent book that combines a nuanced and realistic take on the Robin Hood legend without sacrificing the high adventure of the original. ( )
  Trismegistus | Jun 3, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141306386, Paperback)

No one has ever bested Geoffrey, the Sheriff of Nottingham--until the day a new villain appears in the forest. Cunning, treacherous, and, against all expectations, a man to respect, his name is Robin Hood. Their deadly game of cat and mouse begins--and the Sheriff's life will never be the same. Acclaimed young adult author Michael Cadnum's subtle, evocative prose is sure to leave readers spellbound.

"A stunning tour de force, beautifully written, in which Michael Cadnum turns the legend of Robin Hood inside out....In a Dark Wood may well become that rare thing--an enduring piece of literature." --Robert Cormier, author of The Chocolate War

* A Puffin Novel
* 256 pages
* Ages 14 up

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:28 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

On orders from the King, the Sheriff of Nottingham seeks to capture the outlaw Robin Hood, but he finds him to be a tricky and elusive foe.

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