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:
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."
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
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)