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Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody

Will in Scarlet

by Matthew Cody

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A fun retelling of Robin Hood and a solid middle grade historical fiction that would appeal to fantasy fans ( )
  ewillse | Jan 18, 2016 |
ARC provided by Net Galley, Random House

The 13 year old heir of Shackley Manor, William isn't eager to leave his days of mischief and play behind. But one fateful night, when December's cold is so deep that wolves are pushed to desperation, Will Scarlet becomes Lord William, Wolf-slayer. Leading the entire serfdom doesn't seem so terrible, eve ig it is a bit boring. As questions come to the castle from a pretender testing his uncle Lord Geoffrey for his loyalty. Will knows that King Richard and his father will be home soon, putting an end to the talk. But as Lady Katherine says to her son, 'England is plots within plots'.

Attempting to make the best of his diplomacy lessons, Will is instead embroiled in the very plots against the king, putting not only his fathers life in danger, but his own! Tragedy strikes and those loyal to the crown are forced to flee for their lives, Will separated from his mother and is nearly killed by bandits in the notorious Sherwood Forest, the home of wolves and worse.

Nursed back to health by a small boy, Much the Miller's Son, and the drunkard Rob - they all have secrets they would rather keep. Among the Merry Men of Gilbert the White Hand, Will is as likely to be killed as held for ransom, so he concocts a tale to let him live long enough to get him revenge. What he doesn't count on is the world he is shown and the friendships he makes along the way. In the end saving not only himself, but the people whom he has come to care for.

Will in Scarlet is an unusual retelling of the popular Robin Hood myth; a notorious bandit who stole form the rich and gave to the poor. After all, we're introduced to the man by one of his younger accomplices, Will Scarlet, when Robin's almost entirely given up. What Will brings is more than a mission, because when the young boy's eyes are opened, he brings the honorable thieves back to Sherwood forest, and begins cracking the glass walls he's been living behind his entire life.

Matthew Cody's retelling is also a bit bloodier and political than the Disney classic of the same myth, but it succeeds in balancing historical accuracy with a good feel for words and fun. But for all the contrivances of bad guys and murder and pillaging, there was quite a lot of fun to be had. The story is one of action and rebellion, Will's story is one of social reform and, dare I say it, usurping the entire system when you have nothing to lose. And that might be a hard selling point, but one that I feel really enticed me. After all, stealing from the rich, giving to the poor, living in a selfless community, sounds a lot like... And he's scarlet? Maybe that was just a coincidence, said the naïve intern.

While the strings were almost all nicely tied up in the end, this reader can't help hoping that Matthew Cody is already working on a sequel. The only complaint: how short it was. I want more, Matthew Cody! In fact, I liked the proof eBook I was provided with by Net Galley so much that I'm going to preorder a hardback as well. Here's to hoping my brother will stand some cajoling to read over the holidays.

If you've read this, tell me why you liked or disliked it! Tell me whether you think there was some smooching, and whether that detail about the Italian chair maker was really necessary. If you haven't read this: how have you taunted, teased and tricked your non-bookworm acquaintances to read? I need some new tactics.

272pp. Random House. 8th Oct. 2013 ( )
  knotbox | Dec 11, 2014 |
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 |
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In the year 1192, while King Richard the Lionheart was on his way home from fighting in far-off Jerusalem, the lords of Shackley Castle were out hunting wolves by moonlight.
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:37 -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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