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Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody
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Will in Scarlet

by Matthew Cody

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According to Matthew Cody, author of this book, there really is no official version of the Robin Hood tale. The basic foundation of the folk lore surrounding this classic hero seems to change with the political climate often enough to suspect that perhaps the legend evolving over the years is more a conglomerate of characters and repeated among the downtrodden to keep hope alive. In any case, in his research the author found very little about young Will Shackley, a member of Robin's Merry Men; he felt comfortable enough, then, to add his contribution to the plethora of tales about the Merry Men of Sherwood Forest. I love the final product of this author's fertile imagination. The story reads like a convincing historical fiction about the birth of a legendary character.

Will in Scarlet opens with an adventure that turns Will Shackley, the boy of 13, into Wolfslayer the young man, under the tutelage of Sir Osbert, an old knight in the service of the Shackley family. It was a time when boys had to grow up fast, especially young lordlings about to get kicked in the teeth by life. Will's father, Lord Roderic Shackley, was at the side of his king, King Richard the Lionheart, sailing home after two years of fighting in the crusades in Jerusalem. News had just arrived of the capture and imprisonment of King Richard and his men. When Sir Guy of Gisborne shows up at the lad's celebration, Will's life is forever changed.

The Shackley family friend, Mark Brewer, once a friend of the family, now Prince John's appointed Sheriff of Nottingham, turns traitor and the Regent of Shackley Castle, Will's Uncle Geoff Shackley is deceived and slain. Will and his mother narrowly escaped the ignoble Sir Guy through a secret underground tunnel and flee to safely. Will's mother traveled to France and took refuge with her family. Will struck out on his own and ended up in Sherwood Forest where he was found by the Merry Men, nearly at the end of his life. Much the Miller's son nursed him back to health. He takes up the mantle as Will Scarlet, eventually one of Robin Hood's Merry Men. His adventures have only just begun.

I enjoyed the fast-paced adventures of Will and Much, the Miller's son. The author tells the story so well that I quickly became engrossed in the tale. There's suspense, danger, a touch of history, and a lot of imagination. The characterization of Will, Much, and Robin himself is well-written, each one maturing enough to find himself and the purpose for his existence. It is an appealing middle grade read, attractive for boys and girls alike, even to those who may be new to reading period books or historical fiction. I highly recommend it.

One cautionary note: I found a tiny bit of crude language, something that would have been historically part of an outlaw's language. But those moments are rare and not actual swear words. I believe most careful parents would find it of little concern. When my children were young, if I owned the book, the words became a topic of discussion and/or whited out.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley, on behalf of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." ( )
  Beverlylynnt | Sep 24, 2014 |
Will Scarlet, heir to Shackley House, has led a charmed life, despite the fact that his father has been absent for years, fighting in the Crusades at the side of King Richard the Lionheart. Will spends his days getting into small bits of childish trouble and generally ignorant of the world around him, but, at the age of thirteen, the political landscape in England is growing tense and even Will can no longer ignore the dark changes in power. King Richard’s brother and his corrupt lackeys have overrun England and rule with a violent fist, exploiting the masses and using fear to accomplish their selfish goals. When Shackley House is pulled into the turbulence and his uncle is murdered, Will begins to realize just how sheltered and naïve he’s been. Forced to flee his childhood home, Will nearly dies, but is (reluctantly) saved by a group of ragtag bandits who call themselves the Merry Men. As Will embarks on his own crusade for revenge against the powerful men that have wronged his family, he inadvertently sets into motion the rise of the dashing hero known as Robin Hood.

For some reason, I had the impression that this book was a complete retelling of the Robin Hood story and it would, therefore, focus on Robin Hood. It’s actually a Robin Hood origin story, so there isn’t an actual Robin Hood character until the end of the novel… which is a relatively important detail to have overlooked because I kept wondering where Robin Hood was. Still, I really enjoyed this novel, especially once I figured out the origin story bit!

When we first meet Will Scarlet, he’s naïve, immature, and wholly ill-prepared for the real world. But the end of the novel, he’s a strong young man with a strong sense of morality and ethics, despite the fact that he’s joined a group of bandits. Such is the magic of the Robin Hood story, readers of all ages come to realize that good and bad aren’t always obvious… that it often takes an underdog to incite necessary change.

Many of the characters within Will in Scarlet, including Will, are pretending to be something they aren’t, but, by the novel’s end, they’ve all proudly accepted who they are … and who they are meant to be. One of my favorite characters was Much, a member of the Merry Men, who is actually a girl disguised by necessity as a boy. Though disguising herself as a boy allows Much more mobility and keeps her safe, in the end, it’s being true to herself (and, more literally, dressing as a girl) that helps saves the day!

Lots of action, plenty of secrets, hidden identities, and a smattering of humor make Matthew Cody’s Will in Scarlet is great middle grade read. ( )
  thehidingspot | Feb 23, 2014 |
You really have to go into this book not expecting a straight-up Robin Hood retelling. This is much more of an origin story, before Robin was heroic and confident, before Will Scarlet was part of the Merry Men, before the Sheriff of Nottingham was the low and dastardly man we know. It really gives us a different way of looking at the characters, and as an adventure story I thought it was very good, though a bit slow in the beginning. If bit about Will in his childhood home (also a castle) had been trimmed a bit, I think it would have been easier to get into, but once the action started I flew through it. I'm hoping there will be a follow up, since I'd like to hear more about these characters and their history. Plus, we haven't gotten to Friar Tuck just yet, and Maid Marian only has a not-even-really-passing mention. ( )
  Tahleen | Feb 16, 2014 |
This book is about a young lord who turned a hopeless drunk into one of the most feared criminals in history. The story begins with the young Will Shackley hunting wolves. He then was catapulted into a world of bandits by Guy of Guisborne who killed his uncle for not supporting king John. Then he met Rob, a hero when somber, but useless when drunk Will leads him to stop drinking and declare war on the evil tyrants that have taken over England under the guise of Will Scarlet. Then he met Much the millers son( who was actually the millers daughter in disguise) and fell head over heels in love (when he found she was a girl). Then he got his revenge killing Guy of Guisborne and making it so that the Sheriff owed him a debt that he could not repay. The book ends with a happily ever after they robbed and gave to the poor to their hearts content.
This book like all of the others that I have submitted was amazing. The mix of secrecy, revenge, love, and other elements offset this book from others. I also liked it because I could wonder all day about its historical inaccuracy. It gives me something to do. I also like the setting of Robbin Hood and his Merry men changed in different parodies from the original I have read so many times. This book just adds a comic yet not too far stretched from the original version that I never thought of. It also bears my name so I thought that kind of cool. ( )
  williamf.b4 | Jan 9, 2014 |
Matthew Cody's Will in Scarlet is a wonderfully done retelling of the story of Robin Hood. We're transported to England at the time of Richard the Lionhearted and the Crusades. Will's father accompanied King Richard to the Middle East and his wife, son, castle and lands under his brother's control. These are good times for Will - he gets into all sorts of mischief, exploring, hunting, and growing up very slowly. But the nation's politics come even to the slower, quieter areas and Will's castle is not exempt.

Richard's brother John sends his men to test where Will's family's loyalties lie. Tragedy ensues and Will finds himself on the run. He comes across the Merry Men in Sherwood Forrest and somehow thieves become local heroes of sorts.

Full of humor, adventure and unforgettable characters, Will in Scarlet is an engaging story. Highly recommended! ( )
  gaby317 | Dec 19, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 037586895X, Hardcover)

Will Scarlet is on the run. 

Once the sheltered son of nobility, Will has become an exile. While his father, Lord Shackley, has been on the Crusades with King Richard, a treacherous plot to unseat Richard has swept across England, and Shackley House has fallen.

Will flees the only home he's ever known into neighboring Sherwood Forest, where he joins the elusive gang of bandits known as the Merry Men. Among them are Gilbert, their cruel leader; a giant named John Little; a drunkard named Rob; and Much, an orphan girl disguised as a bandit boy.

This is the story of how a band of misfit outlaws become heroes of legend - thanks to one brave 13-year-old boy.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:23:05 -0400)

In the late 1100s, thirteen-year-old Will, the future Lord of Shackley, is exiled to Sherwood Forest, where he meets Robin Hood and the Merry Men and bands with them to try retake Shackley Castle.

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