The Sheriff of Nottingham is triumphant. The Hood is dead. The rebels of Sherwood Forest have been routed. Now it is left to Marion to lead the survivors, but the forest itself is dying around her and the fey – the fairy people who live unnoticed amongst the trees – have grown hostile. They will have their reckoning.
Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s dark forces are on the rise, and he has a reason to be confident of victory because the only weapon that can kill him – the black arrow – is safely in his possession. He is determined to send his soldiers and demons into the forest and destroy everything that exists there, although the magic that prevents him from entering Sherwood still holds strong. But the Sheriff has, reluctantly, found a new ally – a King with an army big enough to invade Sherwood on the Sheriff’s behalf and crush the ragtag resistance.
And then a messenger arrives in the forest. King Richard is alive, being held prisoner by the vicious tyrant King Wulfhere. And another man arrives in the forest as well. The man Marion loves, the man whose head is supposedly still on a stake outside the Sheriff’s castle, the man who is their only hope of salvation.
Fans of the Robin Hood: Demon’s Bane series won’t be disappointed by this third entry in the series. It is, like the volumes that preceded it, a fast-paced and undemanding re-imagining of the Robin Hood legend, laced with violence and black magic, peppered with just a touch of cheesy romance. And, for the most part, it works. There are some cracking action scenes, a neatly executed finale, and a nice sense of period atmosphere.
If some of the tropes feel a little hackneyed (i.e. the Sheriff tries to lure Sherwood’s merry band into a trap by mounting yet another archery contest) it’s to Debbie Viguie and (the aptly named) James R. Tuck’s credit that we’re still ready to keep reading, even though we’ve trod this ground so many times before and we all know how it’s going to end. And, yes, it isn’t giving anything away to reveal that, in the heat of competition, an arrow does split another arrow vertically in half en route to the bullseye. Maybe there’s a bit too much going on, and a mid-point scene when Marion et al scare off invading soldiers by pretending to be ghosts isn’t one of the book’s shining moments, but at least the constant twists and turns stop us from thinking too hard about inconsistencies in the rest of the plot. So, there’s really nothing new to see here but Viguie and Tuck recycle the old very well indeed.
ROBIN HOOD: DEMON’S BANE – SOVEREIGN’S WAR / AUTHORS: DEBBIE VIGUIE, JAMES R. TUCK / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW