Heir of Locksley by N.B. Dixon

Heir of Locksley by N.B. Dixon

Amy Leibowitz  
 
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Book Info

Book Series
Outlaw's Legacy
Authors
About the Author
I’ve always had a taste for the dramatic. Writing historical fiction means I get to combine deep emotion and exciting adventure with my love of Folklore and Medieval History.

My love affair with the Robin Hood legend began one day in a hidden corner of the school library and has extended into my adult life. I only hope I can convince my readers to love him as much as I do.
Publisher
Publication Date
December 01, 2016
Available Formats
eBook, paperback
Pages
396
Content Warning
Murder of a pregnant character
Note
Some of the content may be triggering or upsetting for some readers. Spoilers are included in the review for this reason.
ISBN
1786450801
Robin of Locksley is a rebel, more comfortable roaming Sherwood Forest with his longbow and courting the village girls than learning how to run a manor.

An innocent flirtation with a peasant girl soon lands Robin in trouble, and worse, he finds himself inexplicably attracted to Will Scathelock, his best friend since childhood. Robin must decide whether to follow the rules of society or his own conscience.

Meanwhile, his neighbour, Guy of Gisborne, is anxious to get his hands on the Locksley estate and he will do anything to make it happen—even murder.

Editor reviews

1 reviews

Overall 
 
4.0  (1)
Overall 
 
4.0

Well-written but has some issues

For a lot of reasons, this is a really tough review. For one thing, it’s not my usual fare. As much as I love parts of the legend of Robin Hood, it’s been done a whole lot, and I’m not keen on the Crusades angle in some of them. I’m also not typically interested in historical fiction outside of memoir or written by someone who lived through a particular era. That said, this was a pleasant surprise in many ways. However, I also had some misgivings.

On the plus side, this is a fresh take on Robin and his Merry Men. Everyone is in there, as would be expected. But this is Robin before he becomes the famous outlaw. We get a glimpse of his history and childhood, and I loved everything about the way his animosity with Guy of Gisborne plays out. While I didn’t end up entirely sympathetic to Guy—and I’ll freely admit I really wanted him to get his in the end—it was surprisingly easy to see why he would harbor so much resentment. That was incredibly well done.

The social message is no less potent than it would have been at the time the legends were conceived. I loved the jabs at classism, particularly the implications that Robin is romanticizing the peasant life. Will is absolutely right when he says Robin wouldn’t survive the realities, and that plays out with disastrous results. Will is in a perfect position to both critique the system and understand both sides of it, and he makes an excellent conscience for the sometimes arrogant and foolhardy Robin. I think the way this is both subtle and overt throughout the book is the mark of an excellent writer.

I’m also now a fan of “shipping” (romantically pairing) Robin and Will Scathelock. It’s not one I’ve come across before. I actually ended up doing a search for Robin/Will fan fiction, and there is surprisingly almost none. So that’s a really good new take on the story. Plus, when I read the blurb, I did an internal happy dance. Robin Hood as a literary figure lends himself perfectly to being bisexual.

That said, I have some hesitation there because some parts of the story felt crafted in order to make that pairing work. There was definitely an element of downplaying Robin’s interest in women which happens pretty often in fan works with a canonically straight character. It wasn’t quite gay-for-you (or I’d never have finished reading it). But it had a vague tone to it suggesting Robin’s interest in women wasn’t genuine that I found dismissive of bisexuality. I was also puzzled by the way Robin, who seemed wholly non-religious, bought into the “it’s wrong for men to lie with men” rather than the more historically accurate “you could be put to death for that.” It’s especially odd given how Robin seems to have very little regard for other social conventions.

On that note, I found it strange that the blurb doesn’t even mention the entire first third of the book. I could see if it was just a chapter or a prologue, but there’s an entire segment of storytelling which didn’t make it into the description. To me, it felt like a bit of an emphasis on the “lgbt” content (which is virtually non-existent in this installment; it’s at the level of a few stolen glances and some vague references, and the “heterosexual” content is much more in-depth).

And here’s where it gets even more difficult, because some of my feelings on it are based on the treatment of women in the book. Warning: SPOILERS. I feel it's necessary because some of the content may be upsetting and/or triggering for readers.

I was not only disappointed by but also distressed over the treatment of women throughout. While I realize some of it is to an extent historically possible or even likely, I was so upset at some parts I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue. It starts with the death of Robin’s mother in birthing him, followed by both Katrina (Guy’s sister) and Lady Gisborne being conniving, manipulative liars. The brief passing mention we get of Marian is that she sounds little better than Katrina.

Then there’s Lucy. First, Guy and his men attempt to rape her, from which Robin conveniently rescues her because he happens to be around. Then, multiple tragedies strike her family (which Robin is essentially both responsible for and attempts to once again play rescuer from). Robin gets Lucy pregnant in a tryst which he apparently didn’t enjoy because he was too busy thinking about Will. Robin decides the best thing is to marry her, but of course she dies at Katrina’s hands. I will say that for some readers, this may actually need a trigger warning because it’s that degree of upsetting.

Every single one of these women feels like a way of getting rid of them to clear the path for Robin to be with Will as well as motivation for Robin’s adventures and desire for revenge. These are well-known tropes, and particularly with Lucy, I can’t help being disappointed at the use of the Women in Refrigerators trope (particularly when coupled with a suspicious parallel to gay-for-you). There is nothing to balance these elements, and there is no critique of them the way there is with the classism and Robin’s blithe dismissal of it. We have nothing to make us think anyone is appalled at the station of women in this society, and no women with substantial roles to redeem it. At the very least, the storyline involving Lucy is unnecessary. It does nothing to advance the plot that couldn’t have been done in a different way. Because of those elements, in spite of this being listed as YA, I don’t feel good about recommending this for teens. There is already enough reading material where boys are heroes and girls are pregnant, dead, pregnant and dead, or evil. Women are not props for men, Robin Hood wasn’t a real person anyway, and this is not the twelfth century. In our modern era, books need to do better than to treat women characters as non-people, even if it makes the story anachronistic. The author’s obvious skill can be put to better use.

Ultimately, I’m not sure how I feel. I love the author’s writing style, and there’s so much great adventure, sword fights and fist fights, and competitive archery. The descriptions are vivid, and there aren’t a lot of words wasted on describing every single detail. Those elements are incredibly exciting. If not for the more unfortunate aspects of the plot, I would absolutely give it top rating. Unfortunately, I just can’t get past the things which nearly lost me.

For fantastic writing style and high adventure but some cringe-inducing elements, this gets 4 stars.

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