Shadow of the Wolf by Tim Hall
On the cover it says 'Forget everything you've ever heard about Robin Hood. The truth is darker than you can imagine.' Certainly, if this is the truth behind the legend then we can hastily discard the merry men, along with Douglas Fairbanks; the witty rejoinders of Costner, the pithy one liners (and strange accent) of Crowe and prepare for a more disturbing, deranged young man, as Guillermo del Toro might imagine in his more fevered dreams.
The forest is full of legend and ancient stories, elemental creatures, demi-gods and monsters. Robin is more complex, damaged, possessed and bent on vengeance, consumed by shadows and vicious magic. Marian is no damsel awaiting a happy ending. She is the Destroying Angel. She becomes a demented survivor, ready to fight tooth and nail, pike shaft, blade and poison for what she wants.* The Sheriff is no mere melodramatic villain. Fable and rumour surround him too; a Winterborn like Robin Loxley. His dungeons descend deep into a perfidious darkness; he is a wolf drawn to fear like a moth to a flame.
In all honesty I was intimidated by this book - dense, small type, a familiar hero, not my first era of choice. However, once I had begun it was hard to put down, and once Robin begins his transmutation the author's ambition becomes clear. Robin can sense the forest around him like a spider on its web, he can hide in plain sight, his mastery of the bow and arrow is all but CGI by Medieval Light & Magic...
This is a brilliantly written novel, brutal, violent, thrilling, with characters that are all shaken and changed by the events. This is the first book of a trilogy, with more blood and teeth to be found on the Darkening Path through the entangled roots of the Wyrdwood.
For a confident 13 year old, with tenacity and stamina.
Consider the following for a reworking of our distant legends and historical half truth:
The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, Mythago Wood, Here Lies Arthur, Temeraire, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel.
Consider Shadowmagic for something easier, younger & funnier.
* Revenge & Mr Loxley