Audiobook Rating: 4.75 stars
Audiobook Buy Links: Audible
Narrator: Ross Pendleton
Length: 2o hours, 25 minutes
Story Rating: 4.75 stars
Book Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Note: This story follows directly on the first book of the series, Greenwode, which has somewhat of a cliffhanger ending. So you must read the first book before reading Shirewode and this review will have spoilers for Greenwode.
At the end of Greenwode, Loxley has been burned to the ground, Robin is dead, and Marion and Gamelyn are left to uncertain fates. As Shirewode begins, we learn what has happened to our three heroes.
Marion was near death in the battle, saved only by Rob’s strong magic. However, her injuries left her with amnesia, with no memory of who she is or anything about her life. She has been taken in by the Abbess Elizabeth and made a novice nun and now is visiting Nottingham with the Abbess, as it is the home of Elizabeth’s brother, the sheriff.
Gamelyn was forced by his brother Joran to head to France to join the Templar Knights fighting the in the crusades. Gamelyn has changed significantly from the boy he was in the first book. The grief of losing both Rob and Marion, of knowing that he was partly responsible for the destruction of their village and Rob’s death, is just killing him. Gamelyn has cut himself off emotionally, has become a hardened soldier and elite assassin. Gamelyn has even taken on a new name, Guy of Gisbourne, to signify the new man he has become.
Rob was in fact killed at Loxley, but between his own destiny as the embodiment of the Horned Lord, and Kernan’s powerful magic, Rob is brought back to life. Rob is meant to be the king of the Shirewode. He will become Rob in the Hood, or Robin Hood, and lead his people out of the darkness from Loxley. Now Robin is joined by John, his old friend Will, and a group of other outlaws, stirring up trouble with the rich and powerful and protecting the villagers.
When the Sheriff of Nottingham gets fed up with the outlaw Robin Hood terrorizing the forest, he calls in help in the form of a Templar assassin. Guy of Gisbourne is hired to get rid of Robin Hood, who he assumes is a regular outlaw, a mere man trying to take claim to Rob’s fame and power. Robin and Guy were once in love, but now they have become enemies. Guy has no idea Robin is alive, and Robin still hates Guy for his role in the battle at Loxley. When their paths finally cross, will Robin and Guy be able to find their way back to one another, or is the damage of the past too strong? And what will happen once they find out that Marion is still alive? Robin and Guy’s destinies have forever been intertwined, though it still remains to be seen if they will be enemies or lovers.
So this was a really fabulous conclusion to the wonderful Robin Hood retelling started in Greenwode. That book leaves us on the edge of our seats as Loxley is destroyed and our heroes all scattered. In this story, we must watch as the pieces are put together again to see if there can still be a future for Robin and Guy, or if has all been lost. Henning really does an amazing job here with the second half of the tale. We follow the journeys of Robin, Guy, and Marion, seeing them each individually, and then eventually they slowly come together. Hennig gets the tension and the timing perfectly here. We get just enough build to keep us anxiously anticipating their reunion, but things are not carried out so far as to leave the reader frustrated with the pace. Even once they are back together, things are not smooth sailing. Robin and Guy have so much history together and have both changed so much. Each man has had to become more hardened after the extreme pain of their pasts, and neither are sure that they can ever move forward together again. The question of whether these two men are destined to be enemies or lovers has been one following the story from the beginning and watching it play out here is so satisfying.
While the first book focused a lot on building the relationship and on the conflict between the old world beliefs and the new Christianity, this book has a slightly different focus. Although those elements are still present, much of this book leans toward the adventure side with attacks, captures, escapes, and battles. It makes for an exciting story and I never could really guess what would come next. My only complaint here was the ending, and that is what kept this from being a 5-star read for me. After so much build, so much tension over how things would work out, I felt we got a little shortchanged on the ending. Never fear, there is definitely an HEA for these guys. But after they struggled for hundreds of pages (and 40 hours of listening time), I wanted more from the ending. More mushy, lovey time. More of a sense of what happens to them in the future. More about what’s in store for Marion and the others. And yes, after all that talk of how they will be “snogging” each other as soon as they get out of the mess they land in, I wanted to see some of that too. But instead we get an ending that is a little too vague and a little too fast to be fully satisfying.
As with Greenwode, I listened to this story as an audiobook and once again I must sing the praises of the fabulous narrator, Ross Pendleton. He captures the tone of the story so perfectly in his narration. The story takes on the feel of an epic tale being told around a fire, or a bedtime story being read. This book is particularly suited to listening and Pendleton really makes the most of it. Once again he manages a huge cast of characters and is able to make them sound distinct and recognizable. I listened to the two books back to back and he also carries the voices and narration seamlessly from one to the other in a way that mirrors the story itself. The pacing is great and the section and chapter breaks are clear and easy to follow. As much as I enjoy reading a book myself, I really have to say that this series is so well suited to audiobook format, I would recommend listening to almost anyone. As with the first book, this audio is super long, so you need to be prepared to commit yourself to long hours of listening. But I really do think it is worth it.
So overall the two Wode stories were a big hit for me. You clearly have to read them together as they make one long and very wonderful story. Hennig manages to create such a fascinating spin on the Robin Hood tale, with just the right amount of the well known legend combined with a unique retelling. The whole thing kept me totally captivated and I couldn’t recommend it more.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.