Wednesday, April 29, 2015

In a Dark Wood

In a Dark Wood
© 1998 Michael Cadnum
256 pages

In a Dark Wood tells the story of Robin Hood, the merry thief of Sherwood Forrest, from the perspective of the sheriff whose peace he breaks. Sir Geoffrey of Nottinghamshire may be the High Sheriff, but he’s no villain given to dressing in black, kicking children, and shaking down widows for the king’s tribute.  He is a dutiful functionary of the Realm, obliged to administer the king’s business. Before him lives are weighed in the balance, arguments are settled, taxes taken in. It’s  soul-smothering work, really, and his wife is no relief, taken up as she is with a handsome falconer.  When a prankster takes up residence in the forest flanking the king’s High Way, demanding tolls, Geoffrey is at first annoyed,  and then – interested.  This Robin is no simple thief. He doesn’t seem to be interested in taking great hauls, sabotaging the king’s interest, or persecuting innocent travelers; he’s out to have fun. He must be stopped, of course; the king’s law is perfect and none who thumb their noses at it can get away scot-free.  But Geoffrey shies from becoming the man’s ruin, just as an overtaxed man might feel a pang of regret after suddenly roaring at a giddy child to stop singing. There is something wrong in the silence that erupts.  There are no heroes here, no villains, only men crushed by the burden of responsibility and those free of it finding ways to rescue one another from meaninglessness. It’s an interesting take on Robin Hood that restores the sheriff to his full humanity.

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