4 out of 5 Stars
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Reviewed by Romantic Renay
Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notthingham suffers under the ruthless enforcement of the Sheriff, who is determined to live up to his title and forget the difficult childhood that left him orphaned and destitute.
Then a charismatic bandit named Robin Hood crashes through his bedroom window and leaves the Sheriff’s ordered world thoroughly shattered—and threatens to steal the Sheriff’s not so hardened heart.
The Sheriff knew an old trick of thieving, from back when he used to steal fine ladies’ purses and men’s gold coin and knives and would bring the spoils back to his mother. He never did forget the sleight of hand, clean as he was all those years later. It was how he stole a single arrow from the merchant.
The Sheriff kept the arrow. He broke it in half and kept the fletched end in an inner pocket that he sometimes opened and touched like a flower with his index finger. He left off the enforcing and let Guy of Gisborne police the forests where the King’s deer were recklessly poached. The Sheriff wasted away in his room while ’round him traipsed the servants and the cooks and the foresters.
The Abbot interrupted his melancholia, came to him with vicious complaints and demands that the scoundrel known as Robin Hood be stopped and put down like a dog. Did the Sheriff not know the villain had taken the donations to the monastery and made off with them in the night? Did the Sheriff not trouble himself that Robin Hood and his ilk of worthless peasants made off with the casks of ale from the widow’s brewery?
The Sheriff listened and acknowledged each grievance delivered.
When the Abbot left, the Sheriff rode out on patrol. He stopped at the edge of the forest and turned the arrow shaft ’round and ’round in his hands until he could evade his responsibilities no longer.
At night he slept uneasy, in patches. The Sheriff counted the hours by the light of his candle from nightfall until dawn. Between one dream and another, scurrying rats made passes through the room until he roused himself and rubbed his face. He half-heard bare toes on the chill stone floor through his slumber and thought it a dream. The fire in the hearth burned down low before fizzling out and left the room desolate, shadows concealing cups of the previous night’s ale turned on their sides.
Unable to return to uneasy sleep, the Sheriff took the ewer by the bed and splashed his face with water. A rat in the darkness started in terror, overturned the chair in the corner, and brought crashing down with it the vase and the curtain by the side of his bed.
A very large rat, noted the Sheriff, who looked down at the rubble and saw the noisy and clumsy “rat” infesting his bedroom was not a rat at all, and heard the merchant’s voice, echoing in his head:
For ‘im in the green. Robin ‘ood.
Robin resolved from the darkness. Spilled water and shattered remnants of jagged vase crunched beneath his scrambling feet. He put the Sheriff in mind of a cat who falls inelegantly and then pretends his stumble was part of his design, and stifled the urge to laugh. Robin seemed ten years the Sheriff’s junior, face streaked with charcoal and blackening his full, wide lips and the divot leading up to a delicate nose. Haphazard dark hair escaped from beneath his green cap, studded with feathers and leaves. Robin clumsily faced him to brandish his blade, the action both ridiculous and deadly serious.
“Your money,” Robin demanded.
“You intend to rob me? In my own room?”
“You would prefer to be robbed in a more luxurious setting? Come now. Be quick about it.”
The Sheriff turned away, detected the patter of Robin’s bare feet, felt the tip of the blade pressed to his spine in a cold button of metal. The candle flickered and cast their shadows against the opposing wall. The Sheriff moved to comply, propping open his cedar chest at the foot of his bed, and drew aside the linens and the shirts until he found an old moth-eaten cloak from his younger days.
“What have you there?” Robin muttered.
The Sheriff yanked out a blanket and whipped it ’round to smack Robin’s sword out of alignment. The blade refracted light in a wild arc as Robin spun with the force. The Sheriff pirouetted out of reach, wrapping his arm in the blanket to provide him with makeshift armor.
Robin’s face twisted and then he tracked the blade to the Sheriff, but the Sheriff had spent his youth in taverns and living on scraps beneath the tables of kicking feet and murderous bandits and he had learned the art of fighting unarmed against blades. With his bandaged arm, he parried Robin’s weapon and then leaned forward to rake at it with the cloth in his other fist, yanking it out of Robin’s grasp.
Robin stood with his hands empty and his mouth parted and his eyes wide.
About The Author:
Claudia Quint writes fantasy, romance, and erotica primarily exploring fairy tales and myth,when she isn’t brewing wine, taking care of her society finches, and messing about in her garden. Her work has been published with Timeless Tales, Transmundane Press, and 18th Wall Productions. She is currently at work on a fantasy novel, Diary of a Centaur. Keep up with her at claudiaquint.wordpress.com.