TLDR: NOTTINGHAM is a gorgeously written tapestry of perspectives that tackles the tale of Robin Hood with true sincerity.
(Scroll down for the cocktail pairing.)
I won an ARC of NOTTINGHAM by Nathan Makaryk through #AuthorsForFamilies, and I bid on it precisely because I had heard such amazing things about this book. The things I heard didn’t even live up to what I received. This book is so gorgeously written, you can sometimes get lost in the prose and forget the story. And that seems impossible on looking back because the story is so riveting.
NOTTINGHAM is a retelling of Robin Hood, but instead of rehashing the same tropes, revisiting familiar characters, and reinventing the same old legend, Makaryk deconstructs the whole damn thing. He strips it down to its bare bones, grounds it in history, and examines each component part to get at the “truest” story it can. The novel comes at the legend from every perspective, from Robin to the sheriff to Maid Marion to each of his “Merry Men” (not even the concept of Robin’s Merry Men escapes unharmed).
The story feels familiar but also utterly unexpected because of the way Makaryk approaches it. There are some things you absolutely see coming, but so much of the story is ripped apart and stitched together into something new. I promise, you will not see several of the twists coming, but when you reach them, you will question why you ignored all the signposts Makaryk erected along the way. He plays with your expectations and uses them against you.
All this is not to say that he attacks the legend in a cynical or grimdark way. To the contrary, Makaryk approaches the legend of Robin Hood perhaps with more sincerity than anyone since Douglas Fairbanks silently took on the role. He takes seriously the idea of a hero as a man, and refuses to let Robin (or anyone else for that matter) off the hook simply because of the fondness his readers might feel for them. He doesn’t put the characters on pedestals, but instead forces his readers to deal with moral questions and the ambiguities of their answers. Sometimes, there isn’t a simple bad guy to pin the blame on, and everyone shares credit for the victories and traumas that emerge when human beings disagree.
This gorgeous book will surprise you, it will grip your heart and your imagination, and it will leave you gasping to the last page. I’m so very mad that I don’t already have my hands on the next book in the series.
Appropriate Cocktail pairing: B&B
For NOTTINGHAM, I wanted something straightforward, something classic, something that has to be drunk slowly to be enjoyed. This book has to be savored because it is so complex, so layered, and is yet, so simple. It’s a classic tale told in a new way.
The B&B stands for Benedictine and Brandy. That’s it. You have equal parts of two classic liquors that marry in a way that is textured, nuanced, and deceptively simple.
1.5 oz Benedictine Liqueur
1.5 oz Brandy
Heat a snifter with some warm water. Dump water, then swirl the Benedictine in to coat the glass. Add brandy.
You can also enjoy it chilled or over ice, but with such heady liquors, I recommend drinking them at room temperature or warmer. The heated glass opens up the aroma, giving you a more rounded experience of the drink.