Review of “The Forest Queen” by Betsy Cornwell

This is a retelling of Robin Hood with most of the gender roles reversed. The characters aren’t all that fleshed out, but it’s still entertaining to read this version of a rousing revolutionary story from a female perspective.

Silvie, the soon-to-be “Queen of the Forest” takes on her role as “Robin Hood” after discovering another female, “Little Jane,” despondent over having been in a #MeToo situation. Rape, in most previous eras and even today in many cultures, was regarded as evidence that the female was “wanton,” and she was thereafter scorned and “dishonored.” Silvie has [thus far] escaped the same fate, although she doesn’t feel totally safe in her home situation. But as Silvie muses, “Surely there’s more honor in – in going on.” Little Jane can’t go home, and so Silvie opts to join her in exile in Woodshire Forest.

They don’t go alone; they are joined by Robert Falconer, known as Bird, who is trustworthy and totally devoted to Silvie, as well as being devoted to the welfare of their city. After the threesome spring a midwife out of the jail in order to help with Little Jane’s impending childbirth, others soon join their ranks in the forest. In order to feed and care for everyone, they start robbing from the coffers of the Sheriff and even of the King, and redistributing the money to their band as well as the poor of the town.

Most of the characters from the original Robin Hood’s Merry Men make an appearance. There are almost no women in the classic Robin Hood stories, so many of them are transformed here to women. For example, the name of the midwife is Mae Tuck. Alan-a-Dale is now Alana Dale. There is even a switch of species, as with Much and Scarlett.

Discussion: There isn’t a lot of world-building, but there really doesn’t need to be. The underlying plot of rich, oppressive, and abusive overlords doesn’t need much in the way of embellishment. Except for Silvie and Little Jane, the characters aren’t well developed either, but most readers will know the original stories of Robin Hood. The delight comes from the fundamental changes in form the author makes, rather than from any deepening or rounding out of the different actors in the story.

Evaluation: This gender-switched Robin Hood makes for a fun and satisfying read.

Rating: 3/5

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018

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3 Responses to Review of “The Forest Queen” by Betsy Cornwell

  1. Beth F says:

    This sounds fun.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    I do like that the gender roles are reversed but don’t think this is for me. I’m not much for fairy tale re-tellings.

  3. Mystica says:

    Well a turn which is different. Thanks for the review.

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