Thursday, November 12, 2015

Shadows of Sherwood (Book Review)

This is the post I meant to put up last week but had an epic fail in that endeavor due to school and work. We're now starting a poetry unit in my creative writing class (blech), which means I probably won't have any backup plans in the event of me realizing on Thursday, "Oh, sh!t, I have to blog this week!" So I'll be extra motivated to keep the reviews and demonology stories up-to-date.

Anyway, here's the overdue blog post. As usual, the first half has no spoilers, the second half has all the spoilers (you will be warned before approaching the second half).

If you have any idea for future posts or know someone who'd be willing to do a guest post on this blog, please contact me.

Enjoy! :)

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You can get this for dirt cheap on Amazon. Click here for details.

In honor of RinnRead's SciFi Month (co-hosted by Over the Effing Rainbow), I read Kekla Magoon's Shadows of Sherwood, a science fiction twist on the classic Robin Hood adventures. It's set in the near future in Nott City with holograms, credit cards embedded in the hands of the rich, and hackers.

It's also got a magical realism feel to it. There's a lot about prophecies and what's called "moon lore," which Magoon doesn't really go in depth about (as this is only the first book of a series, right Ms. Magoon? Right???), but which drives the beliefs of several core characters.

It's a very fast read, even for a YA novel. Robyn Loxley's life goes from rich and awesome to orphaned fugitive in one night, and the whole book only covers about a week of her life on the run. The chapters are extremely short, and it's designed for teens/kids who may have heard of the Robin Hood tale but never actually read it.

"Christina, why did you read this? You're an adult. You're obsessed with Game of Thrones and watch American Horror Story. You have a skeptical realist's view of the world and like seeing that in books and shows. Why are you reading a kids' book?"

First of all, it's not a "kids' book." It's a young adult novel (and boy, does that sound pretentious; but it's true). At the very least, it's geared towards preteens.

Secondly, I'm a college student. That means I spend the majority of my time reading textbooks, analyzing letters and family trees from hundreds of years ago, and writing academic papers with big words I can barely understand so my professors think I'm smart and give me at least a B-. Without YA novels and television to cool my head, I would die from spontaneous brain implosion. Don't judge the friggin' teens' book.

That being said, it does have a lot of the tropes of a typical YA novel. Orphaned kids and evil adults (so the good adults can't swoop in and help out), Chosen One, cryptic clues that are gained with as much effort as pulling teeth, some corny and mostly unnecessary scenes from the bad guy's POV (those are few and far between), the typical emotional blowup that causes hard feelings, the resulting betrayal from the shady guy we don't know much about, etc.

But even so, it's a very good book. Well-written, engaging plot, a good mystery...

Also, Robyn's a girl. So many YA action/adventure main characters are boys. When it is a girl she tends to need rescuing from the male lead, whom she usually falls in love with. Not the case with Robyn.

Which reminds me: NO ROMANTIC SUBPLOT! Just for that, I need to give Magoon a hug. Robyn meets at least three bachelors without even a hint of, "He's so dreamy" or "He's so cute." None of that shallow sh!t. Thank you Kekla Magoon.

While the book points out the class tensions normally present in Robin Hood stories (that is, after all, the whole point), it goes a step further by pointing out the racial tensions. Robyn herself is half Black (her father is described as dark-skinned, her mother as fair-skinned, and Robyn has "light-brown skin"), and Magoon points out the racial privilege in society with Robyn noticing the majority of the powerful political figures being White and an awful lot of Black people not having any of that power. She doesn't cram it down our throats like a lot of stories tend to do, but it's a nice little, "Hey, you know how some people say racism is totally over and done with? Actually..."

So on a scale of one to ten, I give it a 7.5. The missing points are mostly because of my bias for hard-core adult stories with major character deaths and twisty, unpredictable plots. But given the fact that I just came out of midterms, I need to thank Kekla Magoon for keeping my head from imploding.



All The Spoilers 



It opens with the Night of Shadows, where Governor Ignomus Crowne sends a bunch of black ops guys to the homes of his political rivals (including Robyn's parents) to vanish them (i.e. kidnap them and put them in prison). It was one of the few things about this book I didn't like, because even though all the black ops guys have "sharp knives that are perfect for slitting throats," no throat-slitting actually takes place. So instead of permanently eliminating all of his political threats and rivals, Crowne decides to just imprison them and lie about where they are.

Whatever. It's a preteen book.

Robyn goes from princess status to street urchin/fugitive in minutes. She escapes the Night of Shadows but still ends up arrested. Meets a girl named Laurel in juvie. They escape. (Later they bust back in to do a whole jailbreak of all the other prisoners, because apparently it's really easy to break out of prison in the future.)

Robyn and Laurel meet several other people and form a ragtag group of friends: an older teen named Key (who would usually be the romantic interest in stories like this, but thankfully that never happens), a nerd named Tucker, a hacker named Scarlet, and an old classmate of Robyn's named Merryan (who, unlike Robyn, willingly chooses to give up her life of luxury to break the unjust laws and help the poor; she's Crowne's niece and really doesn't appreciate the crap her uncle's pulling).

Robyn spends the majority of the book trying to piece together all the clues her father left her in order to find her parents and put a stop to Crowne, and also figure out all the moon lore stuff which plays into all this. Throughout the story she finds various tidbits and tokens he left behind and understandably grows more and more frustrated as the pieces refuse to fit.

"But...didn't he, I don't know, sit his daughter down before all of this and say, 'Hey, your mother and I might be vanished by the government. If that happens, here's exactly what you should do and what the moon lore means'? You know, a clear-cut answer?"

He did. He put it all in a hologram that he gave her only to use in the case of an extreme emergency. But it broke during Robyn's escape. And when she finally fixed it, the bad guys took it (d'oh!).

Anyway, Robyn learns how to steal and survive from Laurel and Key, then starts giving the majority of what she steals back to the poor, who are being oppressed and destroyed by Crowne and his military police. This leads to tensions between her and Key, who thinks she's being selfish because she keeps jeopardizing their thefts to run off and find more clues (and doesn't tell him anything about herself or her parents because they don't really trust each other).

This leads to a typical teen blowup where Robyn basically says they all suck and don't understand what it's like to be an orphan...even though they're all orphans.

Cue Key doing the predictably shady man's betrayal and telling Crowne how to get the hoodlum Robyn who's been giving the military police so much trouble. This involves sacking the poorest parts of the Nott City and arresting everyone until Robyn turns herself in.

Instead of turning herself in (because that would be a crappy Robin Hood book if it ended that way), Robyn and her friends pull a stunt involving holograms as a distraction and turn the mob against the military police. She also saves Key, not knowing he betrayed her. It's unclear whether he rejoins her as a friend or as a spy.

The story ends with Robyn learning a critical piece of the moon lore. Earth was created when the powers of Light and Dark fell in love, but the forces of the universe tore them apart because they believed Light and Dark were only meant to fight. Apparently they were sorta right. When humans were created, they were divided into two camps (Light and Dark) and immediately set about trying to kill each other. The fighting didn't stop even when regular humans were born and not divided into those camps. The moon is supposed to be a beacon of sorts, a symbol to remind the humans that they're supposed to get along. Sometimes a chosen one shows up and gets everyone to play nice for a while.

Robyn is (obviously) the next chosen one. Not only is she literally a child of light and dark with her racial heritage, but apparently her mother is descended from the Light and her father descended from the Dark. Their love and relationship is a reflection of the earth's parents.

Robyn ultimately decides that, for now, she's just going to steal stuff from Crowne and help the people she may or may not be destined to lead, and try to find and rescue her parents. It basically comes down to: "Screw destiny. I'm just gonna live my life and hope for the best."

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Know a good movie, TV show, or book?
Do you have any questions or comments?
(All criticism is welcome, so long as it's respectful.)
Then PLEASE contact me.

Shadows of Sherwood is for sale on Amazon.
Thanks for reading! :)

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