Will in Scarlet - Matthew Cody

Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody.
ARC provided by Net Galley, Random House

The 13 year old heir of Shackley Manor, William isn't eager to leave his days of mischief and play behind. But one fateful night, when December's cold is so deep that wolves are pushed to desperation, Will Scarlet becomes Lord William, Wolf-slayer. Leading the entire serfdom doesn't seem so terrible, eve ig it is a bit boring. As questions come to the castle from a pretender testing his uncle Lord Geoffrey for his loyalty. Will knows that King Richard and his father will be home soon, putting an end to the talk. But as Lady Katherine says to her son, 'England is plots within plots'.

Attempting to make the best of his diplomacy lessons, Will is instead embroiled in the very plots against the king, putting not only his fathers life in danger, but his own! Tragedy strikes and those loyal to the crown are forced to flee for their lives, Will separated from his mother and is nearly killed by bandits in the notorious Sherwood Forest, the home of wolves and worse. 

Nursed back to health by a small boy, Much the Miller's Son, and the drunkard Rob - they all have secrets they would rather keep. Among the Merry Men of Gilbert the White Hand, Will is as likely to be killed as held for ransom, so he concocts a tale to let him live long enough to get him revenge. What he doesn't count on is the world he is shown and the friendships he makes along the way. In the end saving not only himself, but the people whom he has come to care for.

Will in Scarlet is an unusual retelling of the popular Robin Hood myth; a notorious bandit who stole form the rich and gave to the poor. After all, we're introduced to the man by one of his younger accomplices, Will Scarlet, when Robin's almost entirely given up. What Will brings is more than a mission, because when the young boy's eyes are opened, he brings the honorable thieves back to Sherwood forest, and begins cracking the glass walls he's been living behind his entire life.

Matthew Cody's retelling is also a bit bloodier and political than the Disney classic of the same myth, but it succeeds in balancing historical accuracy with a good feel for words and fun. But for all the contrivances of bad guys and murder and pillaging, there was quite a lot of fun to be had. The story is one of action and rebellion, Will's story is one of social reform and, dare I say it, usurping the entire system when you have nothing to lose. And that might be a hard selling point, but one that I feel really enticed me. After all, stealing from the rich, giving to the poor, living in a selfless community, sounds a lot like... And he's scarlet? Maybe that was just a coincidence, said the naïve intern.

While the strings were almost all nicely tied up in the end, this reader can't help hoping that Matthew Cody is already working on a sequel. The only complaint: how short it was. I want more, Matthew Cody! In fact, I liked the proof eBook I was provided with by Net Galley so much that I'm going to preorder a hardback as well. Here's to hoping my brother will stand some cajoling to read over the holidays.

If you've read this, tell me why you liked or disliked it! Tell me whether you think there was some smooching, and whether that detail about the Italian chair maker was really necessary. If you haven't read this: how have you taunted, teased and tricked your non-bookworm acquaintances to read? I need some new tactics.

272pp. Random House. 8th Oct. 2013

Stars: 4 (really liked it)