Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. 

Okay, so everybody knows the story of Robin Hood, right? I guarantee you've seen at least one cartoon or film adaptation based on the story but to my knowledge, there really aren't a ton of books out there (besides Robin McKinley's Outlaws of Sherwood) that adequately tell the story of how a nobleman turned thief, gathered a loyal band of 'merry men' and fell in love with that stunner, Maid Marian. Jennifer Roberson does just that (and does it really well) in her stunning tale, Lady of the Forest - which lays the foundation for all the lawless adventures of Robin Hood to come. Thanks to Angie, who highlighted Lady of the Forest one Retro Friday a while back, I've had this retelling on my list ever since and was just waiting for the right mood to strike.

Switching back and forth from a variety of perspectives of Robin, Marian, the Sheriff of Nottingham, Will Scarlett, Alan of the Dales, and even fat Friar Tuck, Lady of the Forest beautifully unfolds the story of the young Marian, orphaned after the death of her father in the Crusades, and the much-heralded Robert of Locksley, recently returned from the same conflict. Broken and battered in soul and body, Robin is struggling to simply remain functioning when the beautiful Marian steps forward, bringing his mind suddenly to the present and to his duties in England. What follows is a brilliantly complete tale of the couple's legendary story of love at first sight amidst the tyrannical rule of Prince John and his lackey, the evil Sheriff of Nottingham while King Richard remained a prisoner of war.

I simply cannot recommend Lady of the Forest enough. The language alone was enough to send me into giddy fits of excitement. But coupled with the slight tweaking of the character's personalities and I was a goner. Take Robin for example - traditionally cock-sure, brash, and witty, Roberson's Robin is in turn a broken man. BROKEN! He's been to war, witnessed its horrors first-hand and cannot seem to find his way back. From our very first glimpse of Robin, you immediately get a sense of something not being quite right with our hero.
Robert of Locksley, heir to vast wealth, an ancient title, and his father's brand-new castle, sat very quietly on the edge of the chair, holding himself perfectly still. If he didn't move, if he did not so much as twitch, the chair wouldn't break.

And neither will I.
From that point on I knew this was a tale worth sticking around for. Never once was I bogged down by its' heftiness (600+ pages); the political maneuverings and intrigues were fascinating and Roberson never stooped to overly glamorizing life in medieval Britain. All the gritty details were there, unjust as they were. Lady of the Forest has something to offer any fan of historical fiction, romance, epic retellings, or just lovers of the written word.

series reading order:
~ Lady of the Forest
~ Lady of Sherwood

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review 
The Book Lover review
That's All She Read review

book source: purchased


Chachic said...

Yay for Retro Friday reviews of Robin Hood retellings. :) I'm so excited to read this one because it seems like you loved it. Plus, it looks like a very different kind of retelling from Outlaws.

Angiegirl said...

Can I just say you two made my weekend posting two different Retro Friday Robin Hood reviews? And my two favorites at that. I'm utterly delighted you loved this one, Michelle. It's just not nearly as well known as it should be, IMO. And this Robin? He kills me. *love*

Lisa Lee said...

If I can't find it at the library, will you bring Lady of the Forest with you in March?

Allison said...

I have owned this for AGES when I found it on sale at better world books, and you have definitely got me pushing it way up the TBR list :) great review!

emily bbellamy said...

I'd love to read the book, but as I am fully blind, I would need it in either an audio or an ebook format wich I can listen to it on my computer. Is this possable? Is there somewhere I might be able to get the two titles in this series in either of these forms?

Michelle said...

Emily - I'm not sure to be honest. As it's out of print I didn't see any ebooks or audio for this series! I hope you are able to find one however.