Steven McKay’s Forest Lord Series
Review by Mark Wilkes
For this review I have decided to review an entire series rather than a single book, and before we start I should probably admit that I have a soft spot for historical-based stories; those of Robin Hood being some of my favourites, and so I never actually intended to review these books as I knew I would be overly critical of them! I was, however, surprised by this particular interpretation though so decided to share my thoughts.
Though tales of Robin Hood go back many hundreds of years for many the well-worn stories conjure relatively modern images of a man in very tight green tights or perhaps Russell Crowe fighting on a beach. The Forest Lord/Wolfs Head series by Steven McKay, however, gives the Robin Hood tales a new and exciting twist, while still remaining true to the key elements of the original tales. Perhaps the most important character trait that McKay has left Robin Hood is that he has left him as an anti-hero, unlike some other interpretations where Hood and his men have been made to look like saints in the woods, McKay has left them as what they are: criminals. Now don’t get me wrong they are criminals with a moral code and they help their friends and family when they can but from the very outset of the first novel they make it clear that cross them and you will suffer and though they are by far not the most deviant characters we come across Hood and his men certainly make some choices that show they are no heroes. This is, to my mind, one of the better elements of the story line however, as it shows the men as not some unbelievable do-gooders but rather as a group of men who have fallen fowl of, in some cases, unjust laws and are now doing whatever it takes to survive and help their families.
The narrative across the series is strong, though I must admit I did have to question the suggested timeline occasionally. The characters are well thought out and have believable and well developed back stories that are given to the reader when appropriate and in a plausible manner. Now despite the novels being highly readable and believable I have to admit, and in fact so does McKay himself, that a good bit of artistic licence is used in terms of historic accuracy; does this take-away from the novel? Quite simply: no! McKay is very open about this fact and even explains how and why he has embellished or improvised and in my opinion it is for the best and the author deserves recognition for his clarity and honesty. The entire series of novels are solid and I struggled to find any real, negative points about them but I couldn’t, and trust me I tried, I really did, but there just aren’t any. The novels are real page turners and provide some interesting take on some of best established tales in British folk law. Well worth a read and I will certainly be giving some of McKay’s other work a try.
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