Kluger inverts the Robin Hood legend in this earthy, richly textured revisionist tale to focus instead on the customary villain. A National Book Award finalist for his nonfiction ( The Paper ; Simple Justice ), Kluger casts as the Sheriff of Nottingham one Philip Mark, an actual French soldier of fortune appointed sheriff by King John early in the 13th century, when the Robin Hood legend may have taken hold. No villain, this sheriff is an ambivalent figure, torn between duty and conscience and intent on rooting out pervasive corruption in the realm. Guided by a wife who cheats on him, idealistic Philip faces a gentry seething with resentment and a brutal monarch who orders him to commit monstrous deeds. To save his skin, Philip strikes a deal with Robin Hood (aka Stuckey Woodfinch), depicted here as Nottingham Castle's brazen royal woodsman and a staunch foe of the king's oppressive laws. Though his prose is sometimes a bit stiff, Kluger weaves a magnificent medieval tapestry of near-Chaucerian zest and complexity. (Feb.)
Kluger's revisionist novel portrays the infamous Sheriff of Nottingham of Robin Hood fame as a scrupulously upright man fighting to retain his integrity in a vicious world, and his loyalty to a king whose cruelty and capricious temperament are legendary. Employing a wealth of historical detail that informs and intrigues without overwhelming, the author brings to life a wide variety of complex characters; readers will react with moral ambivalence and sympathy to even the worst of them. Kluger's novel is a detailed, evocative portrait of the age of corruption and conflicting loyalties that produced the Magna Carta. Highly recommended.-- Cynthia Johnson Whealler, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, Mass.