Sherwood by Meagan Spooner: A Slower, Gender-Bent Robin Hood Retelling feat. a Surprising Romance

3 stars

Robin of Locksley is dead.

Marian, his intended, is lost without him and grieving at the news. Yet, she is jolted out of her grief upon the discovery that her maid’s brother, Will, is being hunted by the law. Determined to do what Robin would want, Marian goes out to the woods to save Will.

But when Will thinks Marian, dressed in Robin’s cloak, is the ghost of Robin, that’s when the rumors spread. That Robin of Locksley is back to save the people.

Marian never intended to help the people under Robin’s rule, but with taxes going up for the King’s war and Guy of Gisborne taking Robin’s place without helping the people, Marian becomes more invested in her new role as the new Robin: Robin of the Hood.

However, despite her prowess at traditionally male activities, the looming issue of getting caught, and worse, getting her friends caught, hangs over Marian’s head and becomes more and more present as she continues the ruse.

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In general, I find Spooner’s works quite entertaining and I enjoyed the previous retelling she wrote, Hunted.

However, Sherwood felt very different from what I’ve read of Spooner’s work in the past, and I definitely wasn’t expecting it to be this way, although I tried not to let this affect my review.

While some of her other work is very fast paced and romance based, this reminded me a lot more of one of my faves, Tess of the Road, with its slower narrative and slow burn. It’s a different direction and I actually do appreciate how Spooner is exploring new styles, but ultimately I think there were a few things stopping Sherwood from being as good as it could have been.

It was a bit slow to read.

In the end, I now know that Sherwood was a slower narrative, but for the first half (almost first 3/4), it felt like the story was dragging and not going anywhere, and I was seriously considering DNFing.

I think with the case of slower narratives like this, although slowness is a key factor, readers still need a goal to look forward to, but I felt like Spooner didn’t really give us a goal for a large part of the story. And in part, that was because Marian herself was lost with what she should do, but I also feel like there could have been a more clarified goal for her.

The ending was a lot faster, but the first 3/4 dragged in my opinion, and I wasn’t really sure where we were headed or what the purpose was (although, I’ll talk more about some of the benefits of this in another section).

So yeah! Be warned, it’s a bit slow and I do still think it could have been trimmed, even though parts of it was worth it.

I wasn’t very interested in the world.

This is something that is more geared towards personal preference, but in general I’m uninterested in medieval worlds, and I was, unfortunately, not very invested in this medieval world either.

It’s definitely personal preference, but I wish Spooner took more liberties with the world and chose a different setting, because although I liked her plot, I feel like the setting made it kind of drab and took away from some of the more interesting aspects of the book.

And also, part of the reason the narrative felt slow to me was because Spooner’s writing style is very imbued in the medieval-ish customs, and we get a lot of descriptions about details that I don’t really care for. (Horses and archery and lords and managing common peoples etc.) Although I admire the dedication to the worldbuilding, I felt like some of it was ultimately unnecessary.

It felt like a lot of the justifications for Marian doing something were told to the reader.

I feel like this is ultimately the root of why the story went so slowly for me—whenever Marian came to a point where she had to make a decision, Spooner would sort of run her through a whole thought process very logically. With justifications such as tarnishing her father’s honor, Marian’s thought process for a decision would be summarized in three paragraphs or so, and then the story would continue.

Ultimately, as logical as it was, it felt boring? unemotional? It certainly slowed down the story and the pacing, as we couldn’t follow a whirlwind of thoughts as much as wait for Marian to go through her checklist and look at what her actions would do.

And I mean, part of this is because Marian is quite a logical character, but I also think Spooner could have taken into account her emotions more and also let her be impulsive at times.

Or even, alternatively, let the reader come to the conclusion of why Marian did X or Y or Z by themselves, rather than explaining it all out for them. I think a little ambiguity would have actually helped Sherwood move faster.

However, the romance was actually way better than I expected?

If I can count on Meagan Spooner to do one thing well, it’s the romance.

I was not sure where the romance would go because Marian’s love of her life, Robin, is dead. There was no clear romantic interest around for a lot of the book.

But oh my gosh, somehow??? Spooner pulled a delicious romance out of her hat and I’m screaming???

Enemies to lovers, y’all. I don’t want to spoil it, but if you like some good slow burn enemies to lovers, read this book.

I think Spooner balanced the grief aspect of losing Robin well (probably why the first section of the book is so long), and then pulled out the romance at the end (which felt justified! not just instalove!) and it was a lot more satisfying than a lot of her other romances, honestly.

The slow burn was probably my favorite part of this book and I can dig that romance a lot more than I did with other books by Spooner.

So overall, this was longer than I wanted and slower than I wanted, but did have redeeming qualities.

I think if you’re someone who is intrigued by slow burn enemies-to-lovers, you should definitely read Sherwood.

But, if you’re someone who isn’t really a fan of medieval settings, am not too interested in the romance, and wants something more fast-paced, it’s probably good to pass on this.

I was pleasantly surprised by the romance and the end, but I think ultimately the first part of the book was a bit of a deal breaker for me.

Thank you so much to Harper Collins and Edelweiss for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!

Have you read any of Spooner’s work? Which is your favorite?

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9 thoughts on “Sherwood by Meagan Spooner: A Slower, Gender-Bent Robin Hood Retelling feat. a Surprising Romance

  1. I actually think the medieval setting might be something I’d enjoy, thanks to my love of a video game, Dragon Age (it’s fantasy but a medieval setting could be similar). I’m definitely curious about the novel, even if I haven’t read any of Megan Spooner’s novels before ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oh, that’s awesome then! this might be the book for you–I’m pretty meh about the setting, but if you like that type of world, i’d definitely recommend this.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m kind of bummed that reviews for this haven’t been great, because I love Spooner’s writing, usually. But thank you for your honesty, now I’m still going to read this, but probably later. Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yeah, it’s a lot different from Spooner’s usual writing which is why I was so caught off guard. Usually I can expect action and romance, and this was a lot different. But I hope you still love it!

      Like

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