Review: Rise of the Wolf – Steven A McKay

5 of 5 stars

Series: The Forest Lord 3

My version: Paperback
Historical Fiction Robin Hood
Self published

Sir Guy of Gisbourne is back!

Bent on vengeance against Robin Hood and with a turncoat new lieutenant in tow, an unlikely new hero must stand up for herself…

Yorkshire, England, 1323 AD

The greenwood has been quiet and the outlaws have become complacent, but the harsh reality of life is about to hit the companions with brutal, deadly force thanks to their old foe, Prior John de Monte Martini.

From a meeting with King Edward II himself, to the sheriff’s tournament with its glittering prize, the final, fatal, showdown fast approaches for the legendary Wolf’s Head.

New friends, shattered loyalties, and a hate-filled hunter that threatens to wipe out not only Robin’s companions but his entire family will all play their part in the Rise of the Wolf.

I think that in these days of writers being ‘brave’ and taking Robin Hood and changing him, it’s actually brave(r) to have a writer incorporating so many of the traditional legends into their story. Angus Donald took his Robin Hood very much away from the traditional, and thereby created his own legend. Steven, at least on the face of it, sticks more to the well-trodden forest paths of Robin and Sherwood (though, Yorkshire?). Which, as I said above, as we all ‘know’ what Robin Hood did and why, it’s surely easier to pick holes in a story that doesn’t quite serve up what we know, rather than one that goes a whole different way? Which is why, I think anyway, Steve’s choice is perhaps the braver. But he’s far from just up-dating the traditional tales for a 21st Century market. He’s having a good look at what made Robin into Robin Hood. If you remember the recent version of Casino Royale, James Bond spends the film going through the process of becoming James Bond. Only at the very end, when he says to Mr White ‘Bond, James Bondis he Bond. So it is here.

Robin is a young lad, from a strong family background, maturing into the role of outlaw leader, and father figure. For the family he’s come from, for the family of his own he is creating and for the family of outlaws he has assumed leadership of. Family, that’s the word. He’s maybe not trying to re-create what he had as a boy, or didn’t have, but to forge his own, with Matilda, with the other outlaws. With family of course come responsibilities. Which Robin has learned over time to shoulder. The bonds between family members also need work, need to be unbreakable – and that’s where his relationship with the outlaws is heading. It was started last time out with The Wolf and the Raven, here he warms to the task, challenged by old enemies and new problems.

As with the family theme, this isn’t just about Robin Hood and no one else. The rest of the characters defy their ‘minor’ role. They’re not just here to make up the numbers, or be beamed down with red shirts on… Especially the women. Those who were expected to stay home and mind the house, the farm, the cattle, the sheep, the harvest the food, while the men ran off into Sherwood and played outlaw. There needed to be very strong women characters in the Fourteenth Century, and Steven gives them to us. Giving Rise of the Wolf a whole new special edge for me.

It’s a very open and accessible Robin Hood. No, I’m not entirely sure what that means either. Maybe that the story telling style makes it easy to get involved in the story and get close to the characters. Understand them, their problems, their reasoning, their situation and their motives All in all, very easy to get all caught up in, caring way too much and fist-pumping at the ‘right’ result. Great stuff!

You can buy Rise of the Wolf in assorted formats, mainly at Amazon

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