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Will in Scarlet

Will in Scarlet

4.8 6
by Matthew Cody

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This reimagining of the Robin Hood legend tells the story of the young boy behind the bandit hero's rise to fame.
Will Shackley is the son of a lord, and though just thirteen, he’s led a charmed, protected life and is the heir to Shackley House, while his father is away on the Third Crusade with King Richard the Lionheart.


This reimagining of the Robin Hood legend tells the story of the young boy behind the bandit hero's rise to fame.
Will Shackley is the son of a lord, and though just thirteen, he’s led a charmed, protected life and is the heir to Shackley House, while his father is away on the Third Crusade with King Richard the Lionheart.
But with King Richard’s absence, the winds of treason are blowing across England, and soon Shackley House becomes caught up in a dangerous power struggle that drives Will out of the only home he’s ever known. Alone, he flees into the dangerous Sherwood Forest, where he joins an elusive gang of bandits readers will immediately recognize.
How Will helps a drunkard named Rob become one of the most feared and revered criminals in history is a swashbuckling ride perfect for anyone who loves heroes, villains, and adventure.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
School Library Journal, October 2013:
"Where the story really shines is in the fully developed characters... [an] action-packed and thoughtful adventure story."

Booklist, October 15, 2013:
"Cody offers a rewarding historical novel with the appealing possibility of more to come featuring Will and his companions."

Starred Review, The Bulletin, November 2013:
"Rich characterization..."

The Horn Book, January/February 2014:
"Fans of John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series will find plenty to like here: lots of action, witty repartee, and an immediate style that will draw readers into the story."

Kirkus Reviews
The origin story of one of the Merry Men is rousingly told. It's 1192. Thirteen-year-old Will Shackley, son of a lord returning from the Holy Land with King Richard I, becomes caught up in deadly political machinations when he runs afoul of the evil Sir Guy of Gisborne, loyal to the king's usurping brother, Prince John. Wounded after fleeing his ancestral home and his beloved uncle's murder, Will is grudgingly given haven in Sherwood Forest by a band of outlaws headed by a brute (no--not what you're thinking). Determined to return to his father's castle to exact revenge upon Sir Guy, now installed there, Will leads the band on a raid with treasure as its ostensible object. As the tale proceeds, Will, a deft swordsman wearing a red coat that gives him his name, finds friendship among the outlaws and begins to feel loyalty to them; he also grows in maturity as he learns that villainy isn't as easily recognizable as he once believed. Readers familiar with the Robin Hood legend will find an unusual, perhaps unsettling, interpretation of their hero: First appearing as a drunken, irresponsible lout, Rob, too, develops self-discipline and eventually hits his stride; the story of how he comes to lead the Merry Men is plausibly told. There's action, adventure and humor here, not to mention a fiercely proud female disguised as a boy. Characters are likable, and some modern turns of phrase don't interrupt the narrative's flow. A nice addition to the Robin Hood canon. (map, cast of characters) (Historical fiction. 9-12)
School Library Journal
Gr 6–8—In this gritty, complicated origin tale of Robin Hood, the exalted King Richard the Lionheart is kidnapped and his brother, Prince John, decides to make a play for the throne. He sends his mercenary captain, Sir Guy of Gisborne, to Shackley Manor to test the regent's political leanings, and the manor's heir, young Will Shackley, is tricked into injuring Sir Guy's servant. The castle regent, knowing this is a ploy to hold Will hostage and secure his support, refuses to let him be taken and is assassinated. Frightened for his life and filled with thoughts of revenge, Will flees to the haunted Sherwood Forest where he is captured by bandits. He adopts the name Will Scarlet and tempts their cruel leader into sending him and a small contingent back to Shackley Castle with promises of easy riches. The plot, full to the brim with political intrigue, scandal, and revenge, moves at a slow but steady pace. Where the story really shines is in the fully developed characters. Several well-known heroes and villains are described from a perspective different from the familiar archetypes. Robin Hood is a drunk running away from a broken heart; the Sheriff of Nottingham is a fair but weak-willed peacekeeper; and Will Scarlet discovers what life is truly like for his serfs and intends to do all he can for them. The politics and geography are mapped in great detail, which may become cumbersome to those not familiar with feudal government, barring casual or reluctant readers from truly digging into this action-packed and thoughtful adventure story.—Devin Burritt, Wells Public Library, ME

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
840L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 Years

Meet the Author

MATTHEW CODY is the author of The Dead Gentleman, Powerless, Super, and the upcoming Villainous. Originally from the midwest, he now lives in New York City with his wife and young son. Besides novels, Matt has written for both DC Comics and Marvel, and is a regular moderator at the Thalia Book Club camp at Symphony Space.

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Will in Scarlet 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
4Gazpacho More than 1 year ago
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 Commissionâ¿¿s 16 CFR, Part 255: â¿¿Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
coziecorner More than 1 year ago
Matthew Cody pens "Will in Scarlet" a middle grade fantasy in a plot that is filled with historical facts that an 11-13 year old would understand. although the beginning was a bit slow, the author's crisp writing finally captivated me once I figured out that it was not the "typical" Robin Hood story but one that is told by a young Will. A nice fast read that I would recommend. This review is based on a complimentary copy from the author which was provided for an honest review.
reececo331 More than 1 year ago
a fractured fairy tale and a play on character.  this is a great story, using the myths of the Robin hood legend while Richard the Lion Heart has been delayed in his return his brother John has made a claim to his throne. This affects all of the people with in his country, including will Shackley. Will Shackley is a rogue of a noble son, who is forced by the knifing plots of the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Sir Guy who in attempt of gaining the support of John by Will's uncle have taken his lands, killed his uncle and enslaved his people. At first taken by bandits of Sherwood, he tries his stake at revenge only to learn his people his serfs needed his help through the difficult and trying time. It is Will who changes history and begins robbing the rich paying the poor. 
AliceGrace More than 1 year ago
I received this from the publisher via Netgalley. No compensation was given or taken to alter this review in any way. Will is the son of a castle Lord who is off fighting in King Richard's crusades. He lives in the time of Robin Hood. When King Richard and those traveling with him (Will's father among them), are captured, Richard's brother, King John, begins to wreak havoc on his subjects. Will's castle is taken from him and, after fleeing, he is forced to join a group of bandits in Sherwood forest as their prisoner. Robin Hood has always kind of interested me even though I've never really read up on him. I know the basics. He steals from the rich and gives to the poor. But Will in Scarlet isn't Robin Hood specifically. It's about Will who makes the band of Merry Men, more than it is when he first meets them. It's the story of a boy, who helps Robin Hood become the legend we know him as. I didn't love all of the characters individually. I liked them but the best part for me was how they all mixed with each other. The cast was full of men and boys with really just one girl among them pretending to be a boy. It was definitely a welcomed change from all of the girl protagonists I've been reading about. You can definitely tell Will in Scarlet was written by a man and it was more enjoyable because of that. With the mostly male cast, it lent a more authentic feel in a story where a young boy is living among a group of stinky bandits who wouldn't be bandits if they could make an honest living. Meaning, they were mostly good people. They're camping and on the run for the majority of the book. Will has memories of getting into mischief like all boys do when they're young. How Will remembers things and reacts to things was more enjoyable. The writing itself was great. Mr. Cody didn't dumb it down for his audience which I appreciate because kids aren't idiots. The story was the perfect young adventure. Quite frankly, Will in Scarlet makes me miss these type of books. It takes real talent to write a middle grade novel with the type of quality people like Matthew Cody and John Flanagan provide. But I think with Cody having an even younger protagonist (Will is 13), makes the feat all that more impressive. The plot was serious but not too serious for his audience. And I didn't know how exactly this book would end. It's the type of novel that makes its target audience's reading much richer than it may otherwise be. Personally, I think anyone who writes middle grade novels or who wants to can learn a thing or two from Mr. Cody.
celticmaggie More than 1 year ago
I liked this book. I have always enjoyed anything Robin Hood. Most stories and movies seemed silly to me. This book is aimed at the younger readers but the general plot here makes more sense than any of the others. Matthew did a great job of  creating his characters. He didn't make them idolized heroes but he did make real flesh and blood people with lots of personal quirks. I was surprised at the ending and as I don't do spoilers I guess you will have to get and read it yourself.
DiiMI More than 1 year ago
Middle grade readers can hitch a ride back in time to merry old England, filled with medieval castles, sword fights and thieves who rob from the rich and give to the poor! Sound familiar? Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody is filled with adventure, danger and larger than life action as a thirteen-year-old boy must flee for his life from his father’s castle as it is overrun by treacherous and scheming villains looking to gain power, wealth and favor in the eyes of the crown. Young William is captured by a merry band of thieves in Sherwood Forest. Meet Rob, the leader, Much, the young and daring thief who is a master of disguise, and all the rest of the band of thieves as Will becomes one of them to seek revenge for the crimes against his family. Filled with historical facts, fancy and rich imagination and color, Will in Scarlet is not a flowery version of the lives of these thieves, but more a tale of a young man’s personal growth through adversity as he sees the world as it really is for those not as fortunate as he had been and his determination to make life easier on the less fortunate. That he can exact his own brand of revenge becomes almost secondary to his desire to see justice done. Matthew Cody’s fast-paced and crisp writing style will capture the younger reader’s mind and fill their imaginations with pictures of the past and how difficult life was for all, while giving them a hero they can relate to. His characters have their own charm, they have flaws, but in the end, doing the right thing and making the best of what life has handed them is a lesson learned. This ARC edition was provided by NetGalley and Random House Children's Books in exchange for my honest review.