I just finished The Forest Queen, which I got as an Advanced Reading Copy in a giveaway I won from Book Riot. This book’s release date is TODAY so I thought it was the perfect day to post my review. As usual, this review is spoiler-free!
Book Title: The Forest Queen (Amazon, Goodreads)
Author: Betsy Cornwell
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
My Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
I have to tell you, right off the bat, that if you are looking for a book with a lot of character development and backstory, and a lot of historical and political context, then this is probably not the story for you. (Though I would *LOVE* to read a gender-bent Robin Hood retelling that did have those things in it, so please write it and then let me know when you have!)
But if you want to read a lyrical and moving retelling of Robin Hood where the hero is actually a heroine, with interesting characters and fun descriptions of setting, particularly Woodshire Forest (aka Sherwood Forest), then this is a good book for you. Silvie, our main character, has a yearning for freedom that resonated with me, and I understood her motivations and why she did what she did. I also felt that some of the side characters, particularly Little Jane and Mae Tuck, were developed well and pulled at my sympathies. I had a harder time really getting through to the feelings and motivations of the other characters, who were more opaquely/simply portrayed, and John honestly felt a little too much like the caricature of a villain, though I suppose that works for a younger target audience. There were definitely a few characters who were introduced and described a few times, but whose storylines were not really fleshed out fully, and they were kind of left hanging at the end of the book, which makes me wonder why they were included in the first place.
In general, I appreciated the feminist take on the Robin Hood storyline, and the inclusion of pregnancy, midwifery, and childbirth are not what you usually find in a young adult fantasy novel, which I found refreshing. There is also some death/dead bodies and rape (though it is not described, you just know that it happened), so that is a trigger warning for people for whom this might not be a topic they want in the books they read or for younger readers (and their parents). I thought the love story was sweet and matter-of-fact, which is often how love can be in real life–it doesn’t always have to be a dramatic, sweeping romance. They were definitely a couple I could root for, though, and that’s what matters to me when I’m reading.
Overall, the author has given us a beautiful rendering of Robin Hood, with her own personal feminist touch, and if you like retellings and lush forest settings, and don’t mind a story that is told with broader brushstrokes, then I think this is a great story and I’d recommend it. Happy book birthday, The Forest Queen!