This is one of the best books of the past decade. Like Mervin Peake in Gormenghast, Hall has created a group of characters so three dimensional and well described that you feel you know them (although most you’d give an extremely wide berth to).
This is a retelling/ reimagining of the Robin Hood story. Here, there is an element of wild magic, and elemental world mythologies permeate the layers of story adding a timeless, extra dimension.
Quite simply put – this is spellbinding. Evocative and visceral, Marian and Robin leap off the page with actions so convincing that you are behind them from the start, believing in their adventures and attachment. Robin has blind trust in Marian, and later in the story this blind trust is transferred into physical blindness when the Sheriff’s men catch up with the pair and separate them. Robin is brought to the brink of despair and this disinterested detachment from life is brilliantly conveyed, as is his eventual recovery and reunion with Marian.
Elements of gritty realism sit convincingly with the fantastic – the Wildwood is full of mythological and godlike beings who in turn help and hinder Robin. There’s a shocking oedipal thread which gives the story a cyclical, ancient feel – as if it were an explanation of the life cycle as envisioned by an ancient race of Graeco-Britons.
There are mature themes and gritty descriptions here which pitch the book at Young Adults (or their parents – this is one of those books that defies bracketing/ labels or marketing). Highly recommended – addictive and gripping stuff. I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel.