Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

Published: 19th March 2019 (print)/19th March 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperTeen/HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 470/13 hrs and 20 mins
Narrator: Fiona Hardingham
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Robin of Locksley is dead.

Maid Marian doesn’t know how she’ll go on, but the people of Locksley town, persecuted by the Sheriff of Nottingham, need a protector. And the dreadful Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff’s right hand, wishes to step into Robin’s shoes as Lord of Locksley and Marian’s fiancé.

Who is there to stop them?

Marian never meant to tread in Robin’s footsteps—never intended to stand as a beacon of hope to those awaiting his triumphant return. But with a sweep of his green cloak and the flash of her sword, Marian makes the choice to become her own hero: Robin Hood.

Gender flipped Robin Hood? Yes please. I loved every minute of this book, the way the original myth is woven into this retelling is amazing. Spooner doesn’t bring it into modern times or change the era, instead she gives us a brilliant story about another origin for the Robin Hood myth and it is one I will eagerly get behind.

I inhaled this book. It’s incredibly long but I could not put this down. From the beginning I was drawn in and Spooner kept me there until the very end. I needed to climb inside the story and I had this story in my ears every spare second I had. I have no idea what I was expecting when I found this but it exceeded everything and I cannot praise the incredible world building Spooner has done around her interpretation of this myth. Robin Hood is a classic character and a well established story for hundreds of years and this story gives you the story we all know, but at the same time draws back the curtain to what is a legitimate explanation about what happens.

Marian is a wonderful character; she is strong, capable, and she is looking to seek justice for the persecuted. She doesn’t start off that way though, Spooner shows Marian’s growth from her naivety and ignorance to wanting to help those around her and the lengths she goes to to do so. Seeing the two sides of Marian, often existing side by side simultaneously is a great way to reveal how she gradually, reluctantly and determinedly steps into fill the role of her lost love. The fact Marian can be self sufficient, strong, and talented while also being sheltered and naive is a clever move because she is fully capable, but within her own world and leaving that means she needs to reexamine things.

The familiar characters of the Robin Hood myth make an appearance and the way Spooner has woven her reimagining into the typical story is incredible. It plays on the idea of the hooded hero and the band of the merry men but with all of the danger and medieval limitations of being a high society woman and leading a doubled life.

From the first pages I was captivated by this story. This is so much more than a simple gender flipping because it retells the story but it’s also telling us the story we already know but with behind the scene access. There’s secrets and danger and it’s full of tension and suspense which is stressful as you read but also quite exhilarating when anything could happen. It’s the perfect book for anybody looking for a story full of adventure but also full of love, justice, secrets and surprises.

You can purchase Sherwood via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin

Published: 29 January 2019 (print)/29 January 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harlequin Australia/Harlequin Audio
Pages: 440/10 hrs and 52 mins
Narrator: Jesse Vilinsky
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  ★  ★ – 5 Stars

What do a future ambassador, an overly ambitious Francophile, a hospital-volunteering Girl Scout, the new girl from Cleveland, the junior cheer captain, and the vice president of the debate club have in common? It sounds like the ridiculously long lead-up to an astoundingly absurd punchline, right? Except it’s not. Well, unless my life is the joke, which is kind of starting to look like a possibility given how beyond soap opera it’s been since I moved to Lancaster. But anyway, here’s your answer: we’ve all had the questionable privilege of going out with Lancaster High School’s de facto king. Otherwise known as my best friend. Otherwise known as the reason I’ve already helped steal a car, a jet ski, and one hundred spray-painted water bottles when it’s not even Christmas break yet. Otherwise known as Henry. Jersey number 8.

Meet Cleves. Girlfriend number four and the narrator of The Dead Queens Club, a young adult retelling of Henry VIII and his six wives. Cleves is the only girlfriend to come out of her relationship with Henry unscathed—but most breakups are messy, right? And sometimes tragic accidents happen…twice…

This is a fantastic story if you know the history of Henry VIII and his wives and even if you don’t it is an amazing, complicated drama about high school politics which can only be told in the setting of an American school. Even if you don’t understand the entirety of the Tudor history Capin still tells an engrossing story and provides enough clues without ever breaking from the present day reality.

Not only is the premise brilliant, but Capin is a master with her metaphors. She doesn’t throw them in your face right from that start but when they come out they are the ideal representations of who these character were and the roles they played in history. The comparisons are not exact for obvious reasons, but Capin is incredibly close with her high school student equivalents and the more I thought about the historical events and the events and characters in the narrative I was even more in awe.

Our narrator Cleeves is a budding journalist and the use of journalistic chapters is a clever touch and while it does put everyone in their high school boxes, it works as an additional storytelling tool from Cleeves’ perspective. I love Cleeves because she has a journalistic mind but she is also passionate about what she wants and while she is a “good” character, she isn’t afraid to step outside the lines for a bit of fun either. She is a feminist and a fighter and the amount of girl power in this book is so fulfilling. Capin via Cleeves isn’t afraid to point this out and I loved how Cleeves isn’t afraid to speak out.

I loved everything about Cleeves, she isn’t pure but she is malicious either. Her friendship to Henry is solid and seeing her react to the things around her and the events that unfold is marvellous. Capin draws you in and once you are in deep to this stunning tale of drama she starts to plant her seeds and despite knowing the history you still aren’t entirely sure about what will happen. It’s an incredible journey to go on.

There is a strong chance I love this book more because of the ties to history. I got quite excited when I realised who characters were representing and what roles they were playing as the story unfolded. I can see how this might be too dramatic and convoluted for some people and overly dramatic, but if you read it as a modern Henry VIII then it becomes just as dramatic as history has always made it out his life and relationships to be, perhaps compressed into a few months rather than over years.

What makes this a strong story I found was that it wasn’t even much of a stretch. When I thought about Henry VII and his relationships, it easily translated into high school drama. While some of the historical events have been excluded, there is still enough to see the events of Henry and his court unfold in the modern day. Capin includes key aspects of Henry’s life and the lives of his wives, and while not everything is translatable, the references that are there are creative and true to her characters.

As I say, so much comes back to metaphors and Capin’s ingenious weaving of history into a modern setting which works so ridiculously well. I never even thought I needed a retelling of Tudor history but now that I have it I’ve realised what magic I have been missing out on.

You can purchase The Dead Queens Club via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible