Title: KING ROBIN
Author: R.A. Moss
Genre: Historical Drama
Setting: England, France Date: 7/28/2020
Analyst: James Chatterton
LOGLINE: The life & times of Robin Hood are told from his boyhood in Nottingham, through his adventures with the Merry Men, to his reign as King Robert of England.
COMMENTS SUMMARY: This generation-spanning saga has an ambitious sweep that spans decades. It seems tailor-made for a multi-season series on streaming or cable. It seems designed to put the legend of Robin Hood on the same plane as modern shows like Rise of Empires, Knightfall, The Last Kingdom and even Game of Thrones. The author cherry-picks from all of the various versions of the Robin Hood legend for a fresh and compelling take.
The life & times of Robin Hood are reimagined as an alternate history where the bandit becomes KING ROBIN, in this historical novel. This is a generation-spanning saga, with an ambitious sweep that spans decades and seems tailor-made for a multi-season television series. It seems designed to put the legend of Robin Hood on the same plane as modern shows like Rise of Empires, Knightfall, The Last Kingdom and even Game of Thrones. There are echoes of all the different versions of Robin Hood over the years, with a special affinity for the more adult themed, autumn Robin & Marian.
The central concept for this story is that it is a generation-spanning saga. It encompasses almost the entire life of Robert Webber (AKA Robin Hood), from 10-yrs old to his death at 61. Most people think of Robin Hood & his Merry Men, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor in Nottingham Forest. That part of the legend is not ignored, and occupies the center of this novel. But there is so much more. The long journey from a small boy to the King of England covers a lot of ground. Robert’s life before his Robin Hood period is just as rich and multi-faceted, with plenty of conflict and intrigue. His days as Protector of the Realm and finally King, are mired in political intrigues. It’s heartbreaking to watch Robert give in to corruption as he strives to live up to his promise to rule in honor and fairness for all. The pitfalls of rule are very clearly laid out here. No one is immune to it.
There is a large cast of characters, but Robert truly centers this story. He has three main motivations that propel him through life. They all dovetail together. One is his desire to care for his family, and keep their land safe from predatory nobles and sheriffs. Second is his quest for justice. This is instilled in him by his mother Anna, and stoked further by his illegitimate noble father Sir Ralph. The third motivation is his undying love for Marian. This drives Robert to do whatever he has to in order to live as man & wife on equal terms with Marian. Nothing else comes close to motivating Robert to ascend to nobility. He sacrifices much for this, and lives a life of chastity. But it’s worth it in the end when he weds her and she produces a daughter. It ends in tragedy unfortunately, but everything does eventually. The author has taken us beyond the living happily ever after part to these character’s inevitable ends.
Although Robert centers the story, the supporting cast is no less formidable. The author has played around with stereotypes and anachronisms. This could have been disastrous, but he’s used restraint to open up the possibilities without making anyone seem historically inaccurate. Marian is a very commanding personality. She is easily the equal of Robert, and she knows it. But she also knows the place of women in the Middle Ages, and knows how to function during that time. Marian spies for Robert against the corrupt rule of Prince John. She is a dominant voice in Robert’s court when he is king, motivating his decisions. They don’t all pan out, but they come from a place of compassion. She also saves herself for Robert. She is very sensuous, and in touch with her erotic life. She uses that to have an active love life with Robert, but to save her virginity for their wedding night. Marian is a very strong woman, somewhat reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn’s portrayal in Robin & Marian in that regard. After it becomes apparent that she doesn’t suffer fools easily, it also boosts Robert’s character in our eyes.
Most of the Merry Men are represented. Little John’s death midway through is the first of their band, and it takes a toll. However, this could probably stand to be expanded in a series. The build-up of Robert and Little John’s relationship doesn’t quite reach the point where the full emotional weight of his death can have the effect that it needs to. Friar Tuck serves his purpose well throughout the story, from teaching Robert Latin as a child to serving as his Archbishop.
But the author finds some fascinating ways to flesh out Will Scarlet and Much. Will is a gay nobleman’s son. It’s a narrative decision that makes sense not only in modern storytelling terms, but also historically. Will lives a life where everyone knows, but no one talks about it openly. This is how it probably would have been for a nobleman’s son back then. Where it gets fascinating is in the way Will uses these dual aspects of his identity to cultivate assets for Intel to aid Robert. Will is also chosen to make an example of Nottingham later, highlighting a chilling aspect of his character. There is an abundance of potential in Will’s character left unexplored. It would be perfect for a series.
Much starts out as a spy for the Sheriff, switches loyalties to Robert’s side, and betrays Robert when he feels that Robert has betrayed their convictions. His beheading is also one of Robert’s first steps in eliminating everyone who can reveal Robert as Robin Hood. It’s a fascinating character arc.
Murdac, The Sheriff of Nottingham is a cowardly civil servant in this version. In a nice bit of irony, his cowardice, laziness, and lack of imagination actually ignites the legend of Robin Hood far better than Robert ever could have. Murdac is even re-appointed to his post when Robert becomes king.
Bland the valet has a role that is very similar to Alfred in Batman. He has a dry wit, and is very capable in his duties. Bland is the one who comes up with the green uniforms for the Merry Men to blend in with the forest.
Prince, and then King Richard is the mentor who takes over for Sir Ralph. Robert has a complicated relationship with Richard. Richard is a born politician who knows how to play people and situations to get what he wants. He may have the good of the people in mind, but he’ll make whatever bargains and concessions necessary to achieve his aims. Robert is deeply conflicted about this at first. But Robert ends up adapting Richard’s style in his own rule probably more than he would have liked. It has mixed results.
Prince John is the main antagonist of the novel. He is also cowardly, and ruled by greed. His final act is to run off with the crown jewels and silver from the treasury to France. He’s never heard from again. This could be a missed opportunity. A quest to find Prince John and re-acquire the treasury could be a compelling story arc.
The structure for this novel is custom-designed for a multi-season cable or streaming series. There are at least three distinct seasons in it’s three acts: Robert’s rise from childhood to the death of King Richard, the adventures of Robin Hood & his Merry Men in Nottingham Forest, and the intrigue that leads to Robert’s reign as king of England until his death. Although the novel itself is a smooth read, there is a lot of room for expansion. This story could easily have been fleshed out to a trilogy. With the long span of time, distinct periods, large cast of characters, and multiple battles, conflicts and intrigues, there is no reason why a series based on this novel couldn’t run for at least 3-5 seasons. This novel takes in as many aspects of life in the Middle Ages as the author could work into the story. But despite the vast sweep of the novel, Robert anchors it. He is the undisputed protagonist, with a complicated interior life, who centers the story well.
KING ROBIN takes all of the various versions of the Robin Hood legend, and cherry-picks from them for a fresh and compelling take. This version is clearly for adults. It puts these enduring characters into a realistic milieu, where the morality is grey, and the decisions are never easy. With the structure and approach, it’s custom-built for streaming or cable audiences.
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