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368 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1988
A small vagrant breeze came from nowhere and barely flicked the feather tips as the arrow sped on its way. It shivered in its flight, and fell, a little off course--just enough that the arrow missed the slender tree it was aimed at, and struck tiredly and low into the bole of another tree, twenty paces beyond the mark. Robin sighed and dropped his bow.
He still could not quite believe that anyone would willingly throw over a living, however meager, to live as an outlaw. "Ah, but Robin, that's just it: we /are/ choosing," said Much when Robin admitted a little of this to him..."None of us wakes in the night speaking the name of the man he killed by accident. " (34)
If Robin Hood had not gathered a band of outlaws around him, the tale-tellers would have had to invent one for him. But the band did exist, and none of its members was taken either... and this, too, improved in the retelling. (36)
"Have you asked Robin Hood who he is?"
Cecily said, puzzled, watching Tuck's deft hands, "No. I would not."
"Have you asked yourself who he is?"
Cecily said slowly, "He -- he is our leader."
"The leader of a band of outlaws," said Friar Tuck, "who live leanly in Sherwood. And did you hear the folk today talk of this Robin Hood whom they saw shooting his arrows into the target better than anyone else?"
"They spoke of him -- as if he were not human," Cecily said..." (206)
Are you not Robin Hood, who introduced the longbow to Sherwood, that all the Normans now go in fear of his reach?
I am he they call Robin Hood. I am also calmly eating venison and would recommend you do likewise. [p.104]
It's hard to look too grand when you're lead by someone who looks like a pudding with legs. [p. 254]
• The satisfying ending. How hard is it to end a Robin Hood story in a way that's not horribly sad, OR blatantly, ridiculously unrealistic? Very hard. This still falls on the "unrealistic" spectrum but it's probably still the deftest tie-up I've ever seen done, balancing consequences of outlawry with the fact that Robin is the hero of the story and narrative demands a better ending than death or prison.
• The banter between all the members of the band, especially Much and Will. For a story in which there are so many outlaws, the main ones still have great characterization and come to life well. I like their different personalities, especially Robin and Much, who are polar opposites.
• The detailed attention paid to their life in Sherwood. Lots of Robin Hood stories seem to go "and they went to live in the woods!" without seeming to really consider what such a life would consist of. McKinley writes about their life in the forest in a way that makes you think they could have actually done it.
• The Cecil story! This is an original thing I haven't seen in any other Robin Hood book and, though the "twist" is not surprising, it doesn't need to be surprising in order to be enjoyable.
• The subversion. The inclusion of women in general, and specifically the prominence of Maid Marian as the "actual" Robin Hood who does the feats of archery that are most famous. I love that Robin is a bad shot, and an accidental outlaw who is against outlawry in general, but still unquestionably the leader of the band.