Will in Scarlet

Will in Scarlet - I received this from the publisher via Netgalley. No compensation was given or taken to alter this review in any way.

Will is the son of a castle Lord who is off fighting in King Richard's crusades. He lives in the time of Robin Hood. When King Richard and those traveling with him (Will's father among them), are captured, Richard's brother, King John, begins to wreak havoc on his subjects. Will's castle is taken from him and, after fleeing, he is forced to join a group of bandits in Sherwood forest as their prisoner.

Robin Hood has always kind of interested me even though I've never really read up on him. I know the basics. He steals from the rich and gives to the poor. But Will in Scarlet isn't Robin Hood specifically. It's about Will who makes the band of Merry Men, more than it is when he first meets them. It's the story of a boy, who helps Robin Hood become the legend we know him as.

I didn't love all of the characters individually. I liked them but the best part for me was how they all mixed with each other. The cast was full of men and boys with really just one girl among them pretending to be a boy. It was definitely a welcomed change from all of the girl protagonists I've been reading about.

You can definitely tell Will in Scarlet was written by a man and it was more enjoyable because of that. With the mostly male cast, it lent a more authentic feel in a story where a young boy is living among a group of stinky bandits who wouldn't be bandits if they could make an honest living. Meaning, they were mostly good people. They're camping and on the run for the majority of the book. Will has memories of getting into mischief like all boys do when they're young. How Will remembers things and reacts to things was more enjoyable.

The writing itself was great. Mr. Cody didn't dumb it down for his audience which I appreciate because kids aren't idiots. The story was the perfect young adventure. Quite frankly, Will in Scarlet makes me miss these type of books. It takes real talent to write a middle grade novel with the type of quality people like Matthew Cody and John Flanagan provide. But I think with Cody having an even younger protagonist (Will is 13), makes the feat all that more impressive. The plot was serious but not too serious for his audience. And I didn't know how exactly this book would end. It's the type of novel that makes its target audience's reading much richer than it may otherwise be.

Personally, I think anyone who writes middle grade novels or who wants to can learn a thing or two from Mr. Cody.