Outlaws of Sherwood, by Robin McKinley


McKinley is rapidly joining the ranks of authors that I have really really liked in the past, and would really really like to keep liking, but whose recent works have been on a one-way track to uninspired-town. (Tanya Huff and Neal Stephenson are also on that list.) The first of McKinley’s books I read was Beauty, which I reread not long ago and still highly recommend, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that is immediately absorbing and has a wholly lovable protagonist. My other favorite of hers is Sunshine, which I enjoy far more than I have any right to, given that it’s a product of the “age-old vampire x teenage girl” genre popularized by Twilight. And yet.

My recent forays into narratology have left me better equipped to analyze what, exactly, it is about a text that makes it succeed or fail, and on the subject of Robin McKinley, my conclusion is this:

1) She’s far better at creating character via first-person narration than third. (Although it’s no guarantee — her first-person Dragonhaven was a solid dud as well.)

2) Outlaws of Sherwood suffers from too much summary and too little scene. Seriously, I was 13% of the way through and there had been all of one actual scene — as in, dialogue and in-the-moment action — and the rest had been the narrator summarizing what they’d been up to. Boring as balls. Give me character subjectivity, or give me SOMETHING ELSE TO READ. I persisted up to 33%, then quit to go replay Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Counter-rec: Beauty if you want ye olde medieval fantasy, Sunshine if you want decent urban fantasy.

ETA: Apparently this came out in 2002?? Then why did I drunk-kindle-buy it last October and it was like, Congratulations on pre-ordering Outlaws of Sherwood! Whatever.

One thought on “Outlaws of Sherwood, by Robin McKinley

  1. So, Facebook lost the list of books with lgbtq folks it teased me with, and I googled, and found your terrific list, which has some old favorites, and gave me some new books to add to my list. And then, of course, I had to check out your blog, to see how often you update, and best of luck on your thesis, or congrats/condolences if it’s gone by.

    All of which is to say, I felt compelled to write and say Outlaws of Sherwood came out in 1988, and is best read when you’re 14-15 and remembered through that lens. Some of her other works (like Beauty and Sunshine) stand up through time, Outlaws not as much. But for an enjoyable time suck, get lost in her blog.

    And but so plus also, thanks for the great list – a great resource for me and one I’ll point others toward.

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