Review: Heir of Locksley by N.B. Dixon

Heir-of-LocksleyRating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Born into nobility, Robin of Locksley has grown up wanting for almost nothing. Food, clothing, and education are all provided for by a distant father who is impossible to please. Even as Robin proved his mettle at the skills required of a knight and showed compassion for others, his father had little patience for the boisterous youth. Robin found a measure of friendship with a neighbor boy named Guy, but as he and his peer grow up, it is clear that Robin surpasses Guy in every regard.

Tension grows between Robin and Guy, coming to a head when they make an illicit trip to Sherwood forest and meet actual outlaws. Scared for their lives, they are stunned to discover the leader of this band of ruffians leads with a fair hand. Saved by the grace of a man who lives outside the law, Robin is impressed and longs to have such a simple life for himself. Guy, on the other hand, burns with a sense of injustice, only promising to keep their jaunt a secret because Robin threatens to spill a secret of Guy’s.

The experience changes both youths in formidable ways. Robin starts to rebel against the injustices thrust upon the peasant class all to serve the nobility. Guy begins to grow cold and calculating, seeking and taking revenge against any and all who have slighted him. It doesn’t take long for Guy to set his sights on Robin of Locksley and the estate itself.

While Robin has to contend with Guy, he also has to learn to cope with his overbearing father. Recently, the man has taken it upon himself to find Robin’s future wife. As the sole heir to the Locksley estate, Robin soon discovers his natural skill at the bow and arrow, the sword, and fighting will be wasted—his father wants him to learn how to run an estate and secure future generations of Locksleys. Frustrated at the unwanted plans his father foists upon him, Robin finds comfort in two companions: Lucy, a peasant from Locksley’s mill, and Will, a peasant who earns a place working in the stables of Locksley manor.

Guy and his evil schemes coupled with Robin’s father’s callous designs leave Robin feeling less and less like he has a place among the landed gentry. A night of passion with Lucy gives him an alternative future: quit the nobility and live as a peasant as the husband of the woman bearing his child. Yet nothing is as simple as it seems. Politics and intrigue affect even the lowest of the peasants, and Robin has brought a fair amount of drama down upon the heads of his future wife’s family. On top of that, Guy’s machinations to greatness grow ever more dangerous—to the point of making an attempt at treason.

Robin will somehow have to figure out how to take Guy down a notch and how to keep his new family from falling apart. As long as Will is at his side, he has hope…

challenge month 2017 copyThe Heir of Locksley was a pretty satisfying read. I choose this story as part of the September Reading Challenge for Judge a Book By Its Cover Week. The lush green tree with diffused light evokes a mysterious forest, which is exactly what how Sherwood Forest is portrayed in this and many other tales of Robin Hood. While I think Dixon did a great job setting the scene with historical description, the vivid colors of the cover were not very prevalent in the prose of the book. Nevertheless, I found myself drawn to this retelling of Robin Hood both for its action and it subtle hints at m/m romance.

I knew going into it that this was the first of (at least? Only?) two books, so I was not that surprised to see the book broken into two parts. The first third follows Robin and Guy when they are but tweenagers; the other two thirds follows Robin and Lucy’s relationship, how Will does and does not fit into Robin’s life, and the despicable actions Guy takes in the name of revenge. It made for a good split.

I especially liked how carefully Dixon establishes Robin and Guy in the first part of the book. Not remembering the blurb very well, I was expecting Robin and Guy to be the love interests. My heart ached to read how Guy spiraled ever further away from rational action. I was expecting a fabulous turn around at some point, but after several chapters and increasingly seeing Guy as a character failing to take responsibility for his actions and blame others and generally behave worse and worse, I was wondering how he might redeem himself. Especially since we see Robin highlighted as a virtuous character—which is not to say Robin is portrayed as a goody-goody, he gets into trouble quite often…but he acts very altruistically.

During the first part of the story, Dixon also does a bang-up job describing what life was like back in the mid 1100s without it reading like a history lessons. The descriptions of the various roles people fulfilled and the social systems in place at the time helped me organize this part of history in a logical way, but it was also introduced as part of the natural flow of the story. Just a handful of these little expositions went a long way towards giving me a clear metal picture of the era. The only incongruity I could discern were some modern attitudes about class and equality, but I wanted to read Robin (and to a lesser extent Will) as being sympathetic to the plight of the poor and that is the defining characteristic of the Robin Hood trope. Plus, I really enjoyed that Dixon tempered Robin’s altruistic-to-a-fault with a big, soft heart. That is, he falls for a sob story or two and pays dearly for giving the sobber the benefit of the doubt.

The only real awkwardness for me was how Robin comes to realize he just might like Will as perhaps more than a friend. There are clear undertones of Robin/Will romance, but they are buried deep. On the one hand, I appreciate how subtly but definitely the attraction (which is too strong a word on Robin’s part) grows. On the other, it did sort of feel a bit awkward during the scene where Robin first feels a funny tingle—it’s a tender scene and I enjoy it, but it just felt a bit “now is the time to open to door to possible Robin/Will.” That said, I will never be a teenaged boy confused about funny feelings for his best friend. The other issue I have with the development of this ship is how little it actually appears. What scraps we get are carefully placed and generally fit the flow of the story, but it always seems to amount to a paragraph every couple chapters. It sort of feels like Dixon went back over while editing and peppered the pages with foreshadowing emotions. There isn’t enough of just Will/Robin to see any feelings develop beyond “Why do I feel so strongly for Will?” on Robin’s part and “Men simply do not lie with other men and Robin’s got Lucy anyway” on Will’s part.

On the whole, I enjoyed this story a lot. The world building and character portrayals are very strong. The two chunks of the book allow the reader to get a strong sense of Robin’s and Guy’s character and the appearance of a balance of power and a moral high ground is constantly shifting like sand around them. While this story certainly has legs enough to stand on its own, it also feels like a prequel to the traditional Robin Hood story (where he comes back from the Crusades…but maybe that’s just my personal feeling as a holdover from the Kevin Costner movie?). It has certainly whetted my appetite for the sequel.

This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Judge a Book By Its Cover Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a prize pack from Interlude Press that includes a signed, print copy of Not Your Villian by C.B. Lee, plus e-book copies of some of their award-winning books. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Judge a Book By Its Cover Week here, including a list of all the books in this week’s prize. 

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Comments

  1. This series is intriguing, but having so little of Robin and Will would frustrate me. This is how books with gay characters used to be written, with hints and everything happening off-page. While not every story has to be filled with sex, there needs to be enough scenes together for the emotional connection to be felt.

    • To be honest, this felt like it might be a way to substantiate a bigger m/m story in the sequel. Perhaps I was a bit too literal in my write up because we get to see Will and Robin interact on the friend level probably as often as Robin interacts with other principle characters (Guy, Lucy). But yeah, the romance aspect is still under wraps. Will knows he’s attracted to men, Robin ponders why Will isn’t bagging every attractive lady who pursuits him, and they both feel funny tingles when they have private moments (Will knows he’s attracted to Robin, Robin’s still confused)

      I’d be willing to (actually, kind of dying to) read the sequel before I write it all off as being too light in the m/m (still a pretty good story nevertheless)

  2. James Escol says:

    Oh, wow! I didn’t know that this story is a retelling of Robin Hood & from what I’ve scanned from your review (’cause I’d like to know the book myself), it sounds really great! BTW, the first time I’ve seen this book before, I admit that I’m not that impressed. However, after reading your description of the cover, I’ve appreciated it now. I wonder what Dixon’s in store for us in the future for this series. Guess that I’ll be keeping my eye out for this one. ^_^

    • I’m excited about the sequel myself! While it’s light on the Robin/Will romance, I’m hopeful it will grow into a steamy romance. The first book does a great job of laying the ground work to hold up a sequel–establishing what makes Robin so sympathetic, that he’s always felt this way. I like how it defines his relationships with Guy and Will, too.

  3. I don’t think this one is for me; I think I read too many Robin Hood books growing up. I also played too many games of Monopoly and have no desire to ever play again! I’ll agree that the cover is appealing. Thanks for your review, Camille.

    • Haha! I’m planning on renting the Robin Hood movie tonight :) But I get how the shiny of a story can wear off when you read it one too many times. Maybe the sequel will have more enticing for you!

  4. After reading in your review how little Robin/Will romance there i have decided to pass on this book. I love to read books were the characters develope and were there is on page m/m romance and it doesn’t sound like this book provides that. Thank you for your review, i’m glad this one worked for you .

    • Yeah, I was left a bit wanting in the Will/Robin romance department. I am hopeful that things heat up in the sequel. There ARE Will/Robin friendship things and for those reading for the m/m storyline, the way Will reads/reacts to Robin it’s so clear he’s meant for Robin.

      In the book’s defense, it’s probably true-r to the time period for Robin to be so confused about what he feels when he’s around Will (for all that Robin is otherwise probably anachronistically modern). But yeah, I would have liked more romance, too.

  5. I love the cover too!! But I am not sure about this book particularly because, well, Robin/Guy, Robin/Lucy, Robin/Will part. At the moment I want to focus on story with just two person rather than many.

    • Oh, oh, oh, there is ZERO Robin/Guy. They are *enemies.* From page 1, the best their relationship seems to be is tenuously polite for appearances sake and it goes down from there.

      But yeah, I was a big torn over the whole Robin/Lucy thing. I mean, it goes towards establishing him as a man of quality (we had sex that one time, I knocked her up, now I gotta marry her). But then, the Robin/Will thing takes a backseat…and those moments that pepper the text with sentiment where Robin feels a pit open in his stomach at the prospect of Will actually taking up a local lady on her offer of companionship still leaves me wanting more.

      That said, I’m hopeful the sequel will have a lot more Robin/Will.

  6. I’m finishing up a story right now that has a similar relationship dynamic, so this might actually be a really good time for me to read this one, with that quieter tension. I’ve never really been into Robin Hood, but I saw another RH book that interested me, so maybe it’s my time to get into it!

    • I didn’t even know Robin Hood was basically a genre! I enjoyed the dynamic. The temporal references made the story feel like a legitimate historical book but were tempered by Robin’s altruism. I wish there had been more of a focus on the Robin/Will arc, but I’m hoping that all this sturdy groundwork that develops their friendship and establishes romantic feelings on Will’s part and subconscious desire (manifesting during intimate friendship moments between him and Will) on Robin’s part will heat up in the sequel.

  7. I don’t think this book if for me. Thank you for your review.

    • It’s not a trouser ripper, but the characters are strong and interesting and the tension is thick enough to cut with a knife! If you ever feel like reading a Robin Hood story or a historical one, this would fit the bill!

  8. I loved this book, and its sequel, and would highly recommend the series. I’m holding out for book 3 now.

    • Yay! I’m so excited about the sequel and there’s a book 3?! (Well, if the blurb for book 2 mentions Maid Marion, I can guess there might be one more hurdle for HMS Will/Robin to clear before it can set sail).

  9. I’ve been a voracious reader since first grade but I’ve never read Robin Hood. Of course I know he supposedly robbed from the rich and gave to the poor but that’s about all I know. This book actually sounds quite good so of course I’m adding another book to my TBR. Thanks! :-)

    • I know, right? Robin Hood Price of Thieves or Robin Hood Men in Tights. I will say this, the first book does a marvelous job of establishing Robin’s character and the experiences related on-page explain how/why these characters have the relationships to one another that they have…but there’s not a whole lot of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor…that said, this book also ends just as Robin heads off to the crusades, so I’m guessing the sequel will pick up on that theme more.

  10. Bronwyn Heeley says:

    If there was ever a historical I would read its Robin Hood retellings (tho growing up in the 90’s my first taste came from Disney) and the fact it seems to be his rise to *becoming*  Robin has peeked an interested. I’m def going to have to look further into this series 

    • You captured so well what I failed to capture in all my previous comments on this post: this book describes his *rise* to being the Robin Hood we all know and love. Frankly, I would probably have enjoyed it more if I could have read it as a PREQUEL to the main book (which is book 2 in the series, which I have not read yet but seems to pick up when Robin returns from the Crusades and where the two movies seem to start). But yea, it’s a great historical book and who doesn’t love some Robin Hood?

  11. I’m not much a historical m/m fiction reader. I don’t know why because I love reading m/f historical romances. It’s weird…I dunno. Any I am intrigued by the authors take on an old classic.

    • I love me some historical M/M…Whyborne and Griffin and The Magpie series are endlessly fascinating. That said, this is even MORE historical (like, 800 years before these other two series). I kept wondering how Dixon would fit in the m/m and the answer is…very very very subtly. I’d suggest you give it a try (it was 99 cents at amazon when I wrote the post). The M/M is subtle and Robin does come thisclose to marrying a woman after he accidentally gets her pregnant, which falls in with your interest in m/f historical (and, well, you’re here so you must like m/m in genera, too, right?)

  12. I think I would be frustrated with the Robin/Will arc not being explored more so I’m going to say this is a no for me. Thanks for your insight.

    • Yeah, this was  tough call for me. I’m hopeful the sequel has a lot more Will/Robin drama (by the same token, Maid Marrion apparently throws her hat in the ring so who knows?). It was a bit of a let down how lightly the feelings Will has for Robin are portrayed and how Robin never moves beyond having inexplicable (and, alas, off page and therefore not graphic) wet dreams featuring Will and a fluttery feeling of jealously when ladies show Will attention…but I feel like book 1 is more about establishing the characters and especially proving Robin is a good guy and Guy is a bad guy. it feels like a great base to build from…but if you’re looking for a flaming hot relationship, it’s not here (yet…hoefully?!)

  13. Thank you for the review, Camille. Though I love Robin Hood’s legends, I have the feeling this book is not for me. I read mostly M/M romance, and I see there is little of that in this book… Anyway, the cover is beautiful, and the story seems quite entertaining. Good review!

    • Hmmm, Yeah. I like having more concrete romance in my romance, too. There’s a sequel and (apparently?) a third one coming out? I would imagine those would focus on the Robin/Will dynamic a little more…I mean, they take place when Robin Hood is in his prime, in this book, we spend a good chunk of time with him as a tweenager then as a young man struggling with societal rules. it’s a lot of ground work to lay without a lot of payoff in the Robin/Will department, but that makes me hopeful the next book(s) will make up for it!

  14. It sounds like fun, if you don’t look at it as m/m…

    • It is fun! There’s hits of m/m and I’m hopeful they’ll feature more in the sequel. Will is clearly gay, but we don’t get a lot of time in his thoughts. Robin clearly is confused why he feels so tingly around Will, but (to cop a quaint phrase) gets a girl in trouble. I mean, I don’t want Robin Hood to knock a girl up and then just play the nobility card…and this Robin most emphatically does not. But I also really enjoy the romance bits in m/m.

  15. I think I would like to read them together or as a marathon. I don’t have a lot of patience to wait for the next one.

    • Haha! Me neither! The second one is already available, though! One of the other commenters said they were waiting for the NEXt one after these first two! Nothing like a proper series when you enjoy the characters in it!

  16. I maintain 2 TBRs, my romance list and my non-romance list. I may put this on my non-romance list

    • That might not be a bad idea for the first book! I’m hopeful things will heat up between Will/Robin in the sequel, but even if they don’t, I liked the first book enough to read the sequel for sure :)

  17. This book sounds so intriguing. I’l put it on my wishlist, although I will wait until this series is complete.

    • yeah, I’ve read a few books in series for Joyfully Jay here recently and have wondered if/when there would be any sequels. It’s always nice to have a complete series to read before getting to invested in one that is unfinished and leaves you hanging.

  18. It sounds interesting but I don’t know if I want to read it when it has so little Robin/Will. I’m going have to think of it. Thanks for the review.

    • What little actual tender feelings there are between Robin and Will are well done. I should think it would help substantiate a future Robin/Will all-out romance (which I’m hopeful appears in the sequel). Even though the romance is light (they’re still pretty young and occupied with all the horrific things Guy is doing to them), I think it’s a good read in all the same!

  19. Purple Reader says:

    Thanks for the good review, Camille. I’ve been wanting to start this series for a while. I love historicals, this period of time, and the Robin Hood myth, and you had such a good review, so what am I waiting for?

    • I say get reading! The whole story was fun to read. I liked how so many of the characters interacted with each other, making the story world feel more full and realistic. The time period is lightly described, but the details given helped me better imagine the 12 century, too.

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