I’m a huge fan of Robin Hood as a character and legendary figure, so I was very excited to see this modern reinterpretation of Robin Hood by Robert Muchamore.
Depending on the world around us the character and background of Robin Hood is reshaped & remolded to fit the Everyman hero whether he be a romantic brooding displaced Lord, a Pucklike naughty boy meddling with the rich, a war-veteran of a devastating ideological campaign in the Middle East, freedom fighting Socialist warrior or the dashing hero of post-war escapism and here Robert Muchamore brings him into the world of children’s adventure.
This absolute thrill of an adventure starts as it means to go on as Robin has 3D printed a key in order to hack into his school system to change effort grades which ends in his brother tackling Clare Gisbourne to prevent her seriously injuring Robin dangling out of the office window.
This is followed by a retaliation morning raid where local corrupt businessman Guy Gisbourne arrests Robin’s father for theft and gets an arrow to a rather unfortunate place (no spoilers) leading Robin and his big brother little John to flee into Sherwood Forest they become separate during this flight which will lead the brothers on two very different paths
Real bandits are in it for themselves… our crew takes just what we need. We train to fight, but only use violence if we have to and we only steal from the big fish.
I think that is that clever here is that Robert muchamore is inspired by the likes of the Young Bond series, the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz, the Haven series by Simon Lelic (which reinterprets the Oliver twist story to Modern day crime & conspiracy ) and fits a very important but sometimes neglected gap in children’s literature and that is the action hero thriller for young teens which I admit on the surface largely appeals to boys but there is it definitely readership across genders and especially here for the way that Robert in particular has empowered his Marion.
Regardless of how you feel about parents asking for a ‘boys book’ (and indeed I have strong opinions about that) there is certainly a market and this is a book that feels and looks like it’s a ‘boys book’ with it’s male protagonist, action, fast machines, groin shots and loud bangs BUT cleverly, and importantly, doesn’t exclude girl readership.
‘Ok new best buddy!’ Marion said, smirking cheekily and giving Robin a friendly shoulder punch. ‘Gimme the bow. You have to show me how to do this.’
Robin Hood is such an iconic character that children especially wish to get behind him and feel the thrill of the robbing the rich to feed the poor; but this time it also has abandoned malls, motorcycle gangs and feminist unions in the woods too.
Robert Muchamore has taken the Robin Hood legend and fitted it into some near-contemporary alternate Britain which whilst has aspects we recognise has ultimately become corrupted and run by gangsters where local law agency is compromised and private armies do the bidding of Lord-Like businessmen who are untouchable.
This is not criticism but it is apparent enough to note that there is an American flavour to the writing through vocabulary and certain context. I’m not sure if it’s just reflecting the trend in recent American-funded British-set tv series that the readership may be familiar with or there is a deliberate intention throughout the book to resemble a sort of Americanised disaster of Wild West Britain-perhaps a dystopian interpretation of a possible future.
Either way, though it may be a bit jarring at first for the young British reader to refer to soccer instead of football and sneakers instead of trainers it is not completely alien and importantly, it sets the landscape as this not being QUITE the Britain we currently inhabit, which would actually be a comfort!
Robin could have made cool kid status if he’d turned his speed and strength to soccer and spent his limited allowance on sneakers and clothes instead of archery gear and books.
For me, this book is a fabulous modern interpretation of Robin Hood with action consistently paced throughout whether it is dangling out of the school window to joyriding Gisbourne’s truck into the forest or dirt biking through the mud or indeed taking part in at the first daring hi-tech robbery that will make Robin Hood the true legendary hero that we are familiar with.
Alongside we see a reinterpretation of key characters for the post-modern world so the Sheriff of Nottingham gets a gender switch to become Marjorie Kovacevic and Friar Tuck becomes Freya Tuck; Guy Gisborne’s 16 year old daughter Clare is his protégé. Whereas Will Scarlett becomes Will Scarlock, an adult leader of the Forest people who survive in a hippie like community squatting in the mall and Marion Maid is a young girl in a LGBT blended extensive family living in an abandoned sports store.
And there is a huge twist in the tale too which reframes the legend straight away from a simple resetting and offers much opportunity to mine in terms of future books within the comfort but not restrictions of the legend.
‘You do not want my father as an enemy,‘ Clare warned furiously as she fought to steady her mount. ‘This is your last warning!’
Overall, Robin Hood; Hacking, Heists and Flaming Arrows is a book I would certainly recommend to Alex Rider and Young Bond fans as well as fans of the original legend and those who enjoy hi-tech adventures and thrillers. Marion is gutsy enough to stand as more than a love interest and we quickly get behind Robin and most importantly see the fairness of his turn to outlaw behaviour and after all that is the magic of the myth.
Robin Hood: Hacking, Heists and Flaming Arrows by Robert Muchamore is published by Hot Key Books an imprint of Bonnier Books.
Thank you so much to Lizz Skelly and Hot Key Books for my copy 💜