CYBILS REVIEW: Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody
ABOUT THE BOOK
Will Scarlet is on the run.
Once the sheltered son of nobility, Will has become an exile. While his father, Lord Shackley, has been on the Crusades with King Richard, a treacherous plot to unseat Richard has swept across England, and Shackley House has fallen.
Will flees the only home he’s ever known into neighboring Sherwood Forest, where he joins the elusive gang of bandits known as the Merry Men. Among them are Gilbert, their cruel leader; a giant named John Little; a drunkard named Rob; and Much, an orphan girl disguised as a bandit boy.
This is the story of how a band of misfit outlaws become heroes of legend - thanks to one brave 13-year-old boy."
I'll admit off the bat that I am a Robin Hood fan. I've read quite a few different Robin Hood stories. Stories with Robin as a boy, a girl, a grown man, or just a cover story for someone else entirely. But this book comes at it from another character altogether. William Shackley is the heir to Shackley Castle and while reluctant to assume lordly duties, expects things to remain as they are until his father returns with King Richard from the Crusades. But when Richard's imprisonment becomes known it changes everything and forces Will and his family to decide who they will be loyal to, John or Richard. A well-intentioned mistake by Will leads to deadly consequences with him on the run. He joins with the Merry Men as a prisoner. But when he leads them to Shackley Castle to get revenge he gets more than he bargained for and discovers that maybe there are more important things than revenge.
Strengths: Will is a believable, interesting character who experiences a large amount of growth through forced circumstances as well as his own choices, good and bad. This was an interesting take on the creation of Robin Hood and how Will influences that. I liked how the sheriff had more depth than in most versions of Robin Hood that I've read. He isn't just a bad guy. I enjoyed the various interactions between the different characters, they seemed genuine. Kids interested in Robin Hood should quite enjoy this version, especially all the humor.
Weaknesses: More historical fiction that I'm not sure how many kids I could get to read. But the fact that it is a Robin Hood story should help. Mark Brewer seemed like an awful modern name to me, although I know the name Mark has been around for a long time, it just sounds modern to me.