“Wolf’s Head” by Steven A. McKay

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After viciously assaulting a corrupt but powerful clergyman, the young Robin Hood flees the only home he has ever known in Wakefield, Yorkshire. Becoming a member of a notorious band of outlaws, Hood and his new companions – including John Little and Will Scaflock – hide out in the great forests of Barnsdale, fighting for their very existence as the law hunts them down like animals. When they are betrayed, and their harsh lives become even more unbearable, the band of friends seeks bloody vengeance. Meanwhile, the country is in turmoil, as many of the powerful lords strive to undermine King Edward II’s rule until, inevitably, rebellion becomes a reality and the increasingly deadly yeoman outlaw from Wakefield finds his fate bound up with that of a Hospitaller Knight.

“Wolf’s Head” – the first in the “The Forest Lord” series opens up feeling like a fun, Errol Flynn-type Sunday afternoon swashbuckling adventure, but before long, one realises that this is not the story we thought we knew.  Several aspects of the tale are much darker and more violent than we have previously seen them. 

The phrase “gritty reboot” has become something of a joke these days, but it seems to apply here.  In fact, the violence sometimes seems to border on the extreme – this is certainly an 18+ novel!  It is, if you will, a story for kids who have grown up. 

The characters are all engaging and interesting, with old favourites such as Will Scarlet and Little John, meeting up with new and lesser know names and faces.

The plot is very well presented.  Whenever you think you’ve got a handle on where it’s going or what is going to happen next, it throws you a surprise, and heads off in a totally unexpected, though always credible direction.  The ending feels conclusive, but still leaves you keen to get onto the sequel.

A fun historical fiction adventure that’s well worth checking out.

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