The Rowan Hood series consists of five books that pertain to the four members of a young outlaw gang. Each of the first four books centers on one of these characters, with the fifth book focusing on all five. These are brave, spunky Rowan, the daughter of the legendary Robin Hood; Lionel, an overgrown cowardly minstrel; Rook the wild boy; and Ettarde, a runaway princess. Also with them is Tykell, a wolf-dog hybrid that can catch arrows out of the air. Lionclaw, the second book in the series, tells Lionel’s story.
The son of a very disappointed father, Lionel is as tall as a giant and with “feet the size of pony heads.” However, despite his size, he has a timid, courtly disposition and would much rather spent his time playing his harp. His gifts as a musician have been known to draw the aelfe from the forests, but such a talent hardly impresses his sadistic father Sir Rogerick Lionclaw.
Lionel’s cowardice in combat stems from his fear that he’ll injure his fingers (and therefore be unable to play his harp), but when his father comes to Sherwood with a bounty on his son’s head, Lionel feels that he’s putting his companions at risk. He flees, only to find that they are all in danger from the thuggish Guy of Gisborn, a bounty hunter who wears a horse-head visor and has a score to settle with the young outlaws.
Lionclaw is a very slender book, and voracious readers could finish it in one sitting. As such characterization is still rather slim in regards to the other members of the gang, though I’m sure that following books Outlaw Princess of Sherwood and Wild Boy will give them some much-deserved attention. Lionel himself fluctuates between annoying and endearing, Robin and his outlaws are peripheral characters, and there’s still no sign of Marian.
The descriptions of Sherwood Forest are atmospheric and mysterious, with plenty of attention paid to the terrain, flora and fauna of the place, but I’m a little confused about the time period: Nancy Springer mentions a king, but deliberately withholds a name (perhaps to prevent the book from being dated). However, one of the ballads that Lionel sings is “Greensleeves,” a song that did not exist until the reign of King Henry the Eighth. Likewise, everyone swears “by the Lady” though I’m not sure who that refers to: the Virgin Mary or a pagan goddess?
I guess the problem is that although it’s a quick, entertaining read, there’s no real meat to the story in regards to background, character and plot (for the second time in as many books, someone is captured by the bad guys). Younger readers will get the most out of the Rowan Hood series, especially those interested in the Robin Hood mythos.
Rowan Hood — (2001-2005) Ages 9-12. Publisher: Rosemary has nowhere to go when her beloved mother dies. She has never met her father — the outlaw Robin Hood — and she’s grown up among the woodland creatures her mother loved. So she decides to change her name to Rowan, disguise herself as a boy, and undertake a perilous journey through Sherwood Forest, in search of Robin Hood. But how will she find him? And will he offer her a home?