Robin Loxley is seven years old when his parents disappear without trace. Years later the great love of his life, Marian, is also taken from him. Driven by these mysteries, and this anguish, Robin follows a darkening path into the ancient heart of Sherwood Forest. What he encounters there will leave him transformed, and will alter forever the legend of Robin Hood
David Fickling Books has always been one of my favourite publishers in the UK and I was very much looking forward to reading their first titles released as an independent publisher. Shadow of the Wolf didn't disappoint. This retelling of Robin Hood is one of the boldest books I've read in quite a while.
The story starts with Robin Loxley being left alone in Sherwood forest and having to fend for himself. He soon meets Marian, a young girl his age and together they have incredible adventures and plan a fantastic future together. But their fate will be completely changed by the Sheriff of Nottingham. Tim Hall takes aspects of the Robin Hood myth (locations, characters (Robin, the Sheriff of Nottingham, Will Scarlett, Marian...), Robin's archery skills...) and creates a setting that takes a lot from local myths and folklore and links the story to nature and fantastical creatures. Tim Hall's take on Robin Hood is quite simply unique and reading it you forget all about foxes and Kevin Costner.
The story doesn't shy away from darkness and the reader can see the true cruelty of the Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin's full transformation into something not quite Robin-like in the forest of Sherwood. Reading this book really reminded me of when I read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. Both stories share a similar darkness, loss of innocence and depth as well as well-rounded characters. There is no sugar-coating of events happening in the book and I felt compelled to continue reading.
YA has been very much discussed lately. Is it too dark? Is it not "literary"/ ambitious enough or a bit too simplistic/easy? Shadow of the Wolf is a book about fate, freedom and also love. It is about how sometimes your fate and your future may be stolen from you and you will need to fight for your freedom but also for who you love. A lot of times you might fail, but isn't trying already a step forward? I can't think of a more timely book to read, than that of a classic story showing how history repeats itself. You might be a Palestinian child whose future has just been blown to pieces. You might be a European child, slipping into poverty. Either way, the future you were planning for yourself may just have been taken away from you and you might need to fight (not literally, of course) to get what you want. Darkness is a part of life and there is a place for it in fiction for young people.
Shadow of the Wolf is by far one of the most exciting books I've read this year. It transported me all the way to Sherwood forest and quite frankly, I'm not sure I want to leave.
To read a preview, head over to the David Fickling Books website.
Thanks to Phil Earle for the proof copy!