Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody - Ashley's Review

*I received this book as an eARC from Knopf Books for Young Readers on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Title: Will in Scarlet
Author: Matthew Cody
Year Published: 2013

My Pre-Reading

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.


Review: I always love finding a Robin Hood retelling. The story is one that appeals to people of all ages, and most children are brought up with tales of the bandits who rob from the rich and give to the poor. I especially love when the stories focus on one or two of the Merry Men instead of directly on Robin. This book focuses mostly on Will and Much, and takes these well known and beloved characters and reinvents them.

Will Scarlet, formally known as Will Shackley, is the heir to his father's estate. He is in training to become a lord, and has had to grow up more quickly than most boys because his father is away fighting in King Richard's war. Much, the miller's "son," is actually the miller's daughter and in hiding with the Merry Men in Sherwood forest. Eventually, their paths cross and so begins their adventure. Many other popular characters are also present, including Robin, John Little, Guy of Gisbourne, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Prince John. 

I've read a book where Will is actually a girl in disguise, so it was interesting to see Much as the girl pretending to be a boy. Although Will believes Much is a boy, there is definitely a certain connection between them that neither shares with any of the other Merry Men. I'm glad that the romance aspect wasn't played up too much though and is just mentioned in passing since they're only 13 and 14. There's no need to force a romance between two children who have just entered their teen years. I love how protective they are of each other though, and I really liked how they kept each others secrets without having a real need to. Their chemistry is great, and it was refreshing to read about two kids who develop a friendship slowly and in spite of their differences.

This book took me a little while to get in to, mostly because of all the setup in the beginning. The first section is all about Will and gives his background (or at least the parts of it leading up to his need to flee). It is a little slow, but most of the information ends up being necessary to either Will's development or to the plot so it ends up being alright if you can get through it. After we meet the Merry Men, things pick up and the book goes by much more quickly. 

This was definitely a very easy read, and probably way below my reading level, but I think it would be an excellent book for kids who are around the same age as Will and Much. They would be able to relate to them in ways that an older audience really can't, and it's written so that a younger crowd could read and understand what was going on. I wouldn't recommend this for kids much younger than 13 or so though, since there is a lot of fighting, some death, and Rob is a drunkard. I would also recommend this to anyone who is looking for a nice, quick Robin Hood story with new and old characters, and new twists on old favorites. I really enjoyed this retelling, and although I think it's a standalone, I could totally see there being more books in this series! And I would probably read them all. 3/5


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