By Robin McKinley
I mentioned The Outlaws of Sherwood in my previous review as a possible non-homophobic treatment of a heroine-in-disguise romantic plot. I decided that since it had been years since I’d actually read it, though, I was a bit fuzzy on the actual treatment, so figured I’d better reread it.
Robin McKinley is a favorite author of mine, so even though this isn’t one of my favorite books of hers, it is still better than most books out there. It is also the most realistic and least romanticized version of the Robin Hood story that I’ve ever read/seen/heard. This can make it a bit slow at times—Robin is often unsure of himself and uncomfortable with his increasing renown—but the characters really shine. The outlaws of Sherwood Forest are desperate people who are simply trying to stay alive in a time of political and economic upheaval while keeping as much a moral compass as possible in their circumstances.
Unfortunately, per my previous review, the Little John storyline was not quite as extensive as I’d remembered, with the woman-in-disguise element dealt with summarily enough that it does not really address the issue of potential homophobia. On the flip side, the female characters themselves are, I believe, the most interesting and nuanced characters, so at least there is a strong feminist theme.