Friday, February 3, 2023

Short Book Reviews: If Robin Hood Was Tam Lin

Outcasts of the Wildwood, by Rachel Atwood (DAW)

In this sequel to Walk the Wild With Me, Rachel Atwood continues her delightful mash-up of the Robin Hood legends, Faerie, the Wild Folk, and characters from British and Celtic pagan folklore. Like the first book, this story begins slowly, which allows the reader to settle in to a world that defies some but not all assumptions. Each of the many viewpoint characters has his or her own backstory and goals. Yet even when the pace seems slow, the intricate connections between the ordinary world, Faerie, and the world of magic unfold like a tapestry. Characters grow and change, secrets are revealed, and the wonderful way in which Atwood upends expectations all create a personal and unique approach to the stories we thought we knew.

Now the focus is on Robin (Goodfellow/Hood) and his lost love, Marian, and it’s great to see them take center stage. For the past 60 years, Robin has lived under a curse. For half of each day, he is a hideous gnome (Goodfellow) with a bit of magic and near immortality. The other half of the day, he is human, the legendary Robin Hood. Marian is locked in a secret chamber in perpetual sleep. The curse can be broken only if Robin awakens Marian in his gnome form and she recognizes who he truly is. This is a reverse of the old ballad, Tam Lin. Then it is the woman who, seeking to rescue her lover from the faeries, must pull him from horse and hold onto him as he is transformed into a variety of beasts and other dangers. Only when he is in his true form can his enchantment be broken.

As in the previous volume, Atwood spins a new take on traditional folk elements.



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