Thus this telling of the story of Robin Hood, Robin of Locksley, begins rather differently from most. The name Vipont was new to me; Robin is not, at first, a great hero; the ‘evil’ sheriff is in fact Marian’s father, now married to Robin’s mother, a weak but ultimately noble character; Will Scarlette (sic) is Robin’s half-brother from his father’s affair with a local woman and, very conveniently as it turns out, the spitting image of Robin. I thought the story might develop differently but not long into the narrative, Robin realises the error of his ways and slowly starts the process of robbing the rich to feed the poor. Elaine, who at first seems to be a lovely woman, turns out to be less so and Marian is the one who ends up helping Robin. The denouement can be guessed long before you reach it.It is, therefore, the same story, but told with a richness of detail which makes the period come alive. The author, Lauren Johnson, is an historian but for her, history is about story-telling and this is primarily a story. She admits that little is known about this period – there is, in fact, no real evidence that Robin of Locksley ever existed – but she states that ‘the world Robin inhabits is real and based on known events during the reign of King Richard I’. She has taken names linked to Nottingham from the Domesday Book and local records and woven a story round the legend of Robin Hood. The conditions the poor lived in, the castles, the power of the monasteries and convents – these are all part of the colourful tapestry. The characters do tend to become more and more two-dimensional as the story progresses; however, this is not a new story, just a re-telling of an old one and, although there is no proof of his existence, it would take a brave author to suggest a different outcome or a fundamentally different character for Robin.
The publishers, Pen and Sword, were unknown to me: apparently they are ‘Military History and Nostalgia’ publishers. A word of warning - the books are very densely printed: if you buy one of their books, give yourself plenty of time because it will take you much longer to read than you expected.