I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Mark of the Black Arrow by Debbie Viguie, James Tuck
Series: Robin Hood: Demon's Bane #1
Published by Titan Genres: Fantasy
A vast darkness is spreading. If left unchecked, it will engulf the world, and so Richard the Lionheart must depart England on a holy mission. In his absence, the safety of the realm is entrusted to his brother, Prince John.
When the king departs, black sorcery begins to grip the land, threatening noble and peasant alike. Horrific creatures stalk the forests, yet the violence they commit pales when compared to the atrocities of men. A handful of rebels fight back, but are doomed to fail unless they can find a hero to lead them.
First things first, prior to reading this book my knowledge of Robin Hood was purely from films and tv programs (anyone else remember Maid Marion & Her Merry Men from CBBC? I loved that show!). So while I know the general story of Robin Hood, it’s more than likely that my knowledge is heavily skewed by Hollywood!
I know there are a few Robin Hood ‘retellings’ about – Scarlet is one I’m particularly keen to read sometime soon – but this has been my first venture into Sherwood Forest.
Following the death of her parents, Maid Marion has been brought up by her uncle, King Richard. She’s a valued member of the court and often taken into her uncle’s confidence. However, evil is threatening the church abroad and King Richard leaves England on a crusade to tackle the threat, in his place leaving his brother, Prince John who had formerly been exiled to Ireland.
This much, at least, I knew.
The twist comes when Prince John enlists the help of a seemingly non-human Sheriff of Nottingham. The Sheriff uses dark magic and shadowy creatures to break the common people and aid John in usurping King Richard.
While Prince John’s tyranny starts with raising taxes, it’s not long until he and the Sheriff unleash disease upon the common folk, resulting in death and despair.
This is where our heroes come in – Robin Hood, Maid Marion, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck… they all band together to try and protect the people in King Richard’s absence. When it becomes apparent that they are fighting evil, dark magic they realise they might just have to do things a bit differently.
Honestly, I struggled with the start of this book. I think it was the scene setting, getting introduced to characters etc. While it was probably perfectly well done I was just waiting for the action to start. I felt it dragged a bit and consequently it took me longer than I’d have liked to “get into” the story.
That said, once things got going I really enjoyed this read. It does very much read like the first book in a series, which is obviously what it is. It feels like it’s setting everything up, slowly building the story. By the end of the book though I was absorbed, enjoying it and wanting to get on to the next one… unfortunately there’s a year to wait for that though.
One thing I particularly liked about this book was the way that legend and folklore were intertwined in the story. My heart skipped a beat when I saw Gaelic being used in the book (more than once) and reference being made to folklore I grew up with. I genuinely really enjoyed this aspect of the book, it felt thorough and well researched, yet natural to the storyline.
All in all, once I got into this, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the twists on the Robin Hood stories that I’d been familiar with. Honestly though, I think the next two books are going to be where all the action is and I’m definitely looking forward to reading them!
If you’d like to get your hands on a copy of this book, there is currently a Goodreads giveaway running. I believe it’s open to the US, CA and GB and ends next week. You can enter here.