My Rating: 4/5
Author: Wilson Harp
Title: The Ghost of Sherwood
Genre: Historical Fiction
King Richard is dead.
With King John on the throne, the Sheriff of Nottingham knows he will soon be replaced by one of the new king’s favorite men. The only way he can survive the constant vagaries of political whim is to become wealthy in his own right. And the easiest way to do this is to see the king’s taxes fall into his own pocket. When the thefts are reported, he will simply claim that a band of bandits has taken up residence in Sherwood Forest and has stolen the money. A good idea and it works. That is until King John decides the sheriff needs some help in hunting down the bandits.
Sir Guy is dispatched to Nottingham with a unit of French soldiers under his command. A ruthless man, Sir Guy will not stop until the taxes are returned and the thieves hanged. The sheriff is in trouble. There are no bandits in the wood and the king’s coin sits snugly in the lockbox in the sheriff’s office. A single word spoken by the wrong person will put his head in a noose.
But then news of Sir Robert of Locksley reaches Nottingham. Sir Robert had left for crusade many years before and he and Sir Guy hated each other. When rumors said that Sir Robert was returning to Nottingham, the sheriff devised a new scheme. He would spread word that Sir Robert was the leader of the bandits and that his loyalty to King Richard did not extend to King John. This plan would keep Sir Guy searching the woods for men who don’t exist.
The Ghost of Sherwood is a different view of the famous legend of Robin Hood. The story tells how Robin Hood became a legend. Robert, the acting Sheriff of Nottingham (for his brother), realizes that since King Richard just died his job is at stake – for King John is replacing all supporters of Richard with his own. Hence, Robert devises a plan to sustain himself for his more than likely removal. Over time, he steals the King’s taxes with the help of some deputies and townsfolk. Although a thief, he also provides some compensation to those who help – and returns the stolen money back to the church. Soon rumors begin that a Robin Hood is the bandit in charge of these acts. Therefore, King John sends Sir Guy to hunt the thief and bring justice to Nottingham. Robert now has to save his own skin while trying to play two roles: one as Sheriff (who supports Sir Guy in the capture of Robin Hood) and the other as the leader of an imaginary band of outlaws. Can he hold onto this ploy long enough for him to escape without any notice? Or will Sir Guy find out?
The story is written in third person following Robert, the Sheriff of Nottingham. Robert, for all intent and purpose, is Robin Hood in this story. He is good with a bow, steals the King’s taxes, gives money back to the church, and becomes friends with other known characters. This “Robin Hood” is different from other stories. In my opinion, Robert is more complex than other Robin Hoods I have encountered (mostly from films.) Throughout the story he is constantly trying to save his neck and his secret. He does seem to care about people, but I think his priority is for himself. Also, in the story are other known characters from the Robin Hood legend. Sir Guy is sent to stop the bandits in Sherwood. He is fairly one-dimensional in that he thinks he’s better than everyone and doesn’t stray very far from that persona. Robin of Locksley – known as Robert of Locksley in this book – was the son of the Earl of Locksley. He went off to the crusades promising to come back for Marian. However, Robert never comes back. Little John and Will Scarlet make an appearance but as Germans who come to deliver news about Robin of Locksley. They get sucked up into the Sheriff’s plan. Marian is also featured in the story. Robert (the Sheriff) fancies her but this is not romance novel. Marian is not seen very much in the story, but their relationship is slightly complex considering she loved Robert of Locksley. Finally, Brother Tuck is friends and confessor to the Sheriff. One thing I would have liked to see were a little more detail descriptions of the characters.
The story follows the tangled webs of deception the Sheriff places himself and others in. Throughout the book, the reader wonders, how is he going to keep deceiving Sir Guy into thinking there are truly bandits out there? Readers who are familiar with stories about Robin Hood might notice a few similar things. For instance, there is an archery contest at the fair – where the winner receives a golden ring, not an arrow, as the prize. Somehow along the way Robert of Locksley is “raised from the dead” and is considered the bandit, Robin Hood. This relates back to the Robin of Locksley part of other stories. There is fighting, but I would say the majority of the book is scheming. By the end, some people are caught; some get away, while others die. Who falls into which category? I cannot say. The Ghost of Sherwood was an interesting view on one of my favorite stories – Robin Hood.
The Bottom Line:
Overall I enjoyed the book. If you like the story of Robin Hood and medieval historical fiction, then you might want to try this book.