“A girl can do plenty of things besides get married and pop out babies.”
“Of course she can,” Marian said. “And if you don’t want to have a husband, you shouldn’t.”
One of the aspects I love most about this lesbian retelling of Robin Hood is its refreshing view on women and gender roles. From such minor things as the mention of a female blacksmith to the two female main characters Marian and Robin, who are both independent and strong-headed girls, this book was an utter delight to read.
When she is fourteen years old, Marian, having grown up in a small village, is forced to move to Nottingham where her father is one of King John’s knights. Thrown into a completely different world where she is expected to become a lady, she meets Robin. Robin with such beautiful curly red hair like fire and green eyes like the forest. Right from the start Marian is completely smitten with this farmer’s daughter who longs to be a knight herself one day. They become friends and spent a lot of time together.
Had it really only been a few weeks since Robin had come crashing into her life with her fiery hair and her bright eyes? It seemed so much longer. In a lot of ways, Marian felt as though she’d known Robin for her whole life. There was something elemental in her, something about her that fit Marian like a key in a lock.
This book is divided into two parts; the first showing how Marian moves to Nottingham, befriends Robin and falls in love with her, the second taking place three years later because, unfortunately, fate strikes again and they are separated.
I liked the first part more because there is so much time spent on developing the characters and the setting. There is a palpable sense of time and place and I just sat there and marvelled at everything that was shown to me. The innocent and lovely friendship between the two girls and then their shy, blooming love is wonderful to read about.
The second part not only changes with regard to the pacing and feels a bit rushed – especially towards the end – but Marian is a lot less confident than the girl she was before. It’s not that her character development doesn’t make sense. She is trapped in the castle with the king and there has to live up to a lot of social expectations – but what was such a joy to me before is dulled here. That’s not to say the second half of the book is bad (although I do wish the ending was fleshed out more) it just doesn’t quite live up to the standard set by the first.
I want to add a warning here because the storyline features attempted rape and sexual assault. Both scenes are short and don’t go very far but if you are sensitive to the subject or triggered by such content, please take care of yourself. To be honest, I am a bit peeved myself about this because I’ve been reading a lot of books lately where this kind of content was just sprung on me and I really wish we could lose this narrative and trope once and for all. Being as this is a retelling of Robin Hood these scenes do fit into the book but I’d rather they weren’t there.
Still, Marian is a fantastic read and one I heartily recommend. Not only are the characters well-crafted and the historical setting lovely, the romance between the girls is sweet and made me happy. I might check out more books by the author.