The Forest Queen

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 07 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

In many ways, The Forest Queen is a fairly standard, though very good, adventure story. It is, in essence, a gender-reversed retelling of Robin Hood. And yet, there is something in the subject matter and sensitive writing that lingers with you. This is not a gender-reversed retelling for the sake of doing something new. Every detail - of pseudo-Medieval life, of day-to-day arboreal existence, the realities of childbirth - is described with a visceral clarity. There’s a great deal of darkness to be found in Cornwell’s writing. The book deals with rape, abuse, and suicide, and while such themes are sensitively handled they might not be appropriate for younger readers. While dark and twisty feelings are not a shortcut to character depth, they certainly help here, and all the characters are convincing, with no question of their female iteration being a mere gimmick. Overall a very enjoyable forest romp with unexpected depth. And how can you say no to a female Robin Hood?
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This is a DNF for me at the end of chapter five (probably 1/3 of the way through?). I was planning to finish it because it's so short (the e-copy is only 173 pages), but I just can't do it. I was expecting to like this, because a retelling gender swap of Robin Hood sounds awesome, and I need something to fill the fairytale void that Once Upon a Time's cancellation has left. But this is a big nope from me.

The writing is choppy and I found myself not caring about the characters. I think because it's so short, it lacks the development and depth needed for me to become at least somewhat emotionally invested in the story. Then, there's my confusion over who the audience is for this book. It's written in such a basic level and it's so short that it seems like it would be for kids, but as other reviewers have mentioned, there are discussions of suicide, rape/abuse, and abortion, so I'm thinking this probably isn't for 10 year olds. The only well-developed scenes are the hunting vignettes, and as a vegetarian, even one who can understand the need to hunt in this type of situation, the overly descriptive depictions of suffering animals because of misfired arrows was too much for me to handle. The most sympathetic character in this book is the deer that they kill in the first chapter, and the poor thing is floundering around for like 5 pages. 

Thanks Netgalley for the free e-ARC.
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I was so excited about a gender bent Robin Hood and although this book did not disappoint, I felt it was a bit flat and could have been a lot better. I enjoyed the story and twist on the original but felt the characters could have been better developed.
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I am a huge fan of Robin Hood stories. There's something about the lore and legend of that story that is intriguing to me. When I found out this was not only a Robin Hood retelling, but one that includes a gender swapped Robin Hood, I had to read it. Plus, this cover begs to be picked up and read. It pains me to say this, but unfortunately this book fell pray to underdevelopment, and a blended YA / MG tone that left me wanting so much more than what I got from this story. 

This is a book I picked up excepting to absolutely love. While there are some great elements to this story, there more that either felt underdeveloped or missing from the story all together. While the story starts off strong, shortly after it ended up feeling more of a mix of wanting to be a solid YA book, and an upper middle grade one. While there is older reader content, ie: rape, attempted suicide, violence etc, the tone of the story is very much a younger reader one. 

Story wise, there was a lot missing with the story itself that felt like it was either under developed or lacked on being expanded on. From character development, to the romance, and the over all story. Betsy is a great writer, but with this story, I felt like it was underdeveloped. There are so many elements that could have been stronger in the story that felt like they were almost nonexistent. The story idea is a fun one, but there was so much lacking to make this a great story I was excepting it to be.

With Sylvie for example, I felt like we skipped from this sheltered girl who longed for something more, into someone who is all of a sudden taking a stand against her royal family linage. Yet in between the two there wasn't much shown in the story to make her this great Robin Hood type character I expected her to be. That is frustrating, because there is so much to her and her story I wanted to read about and see. 

The characters for the most part were good. Some I liked more than others like Bird, Jane, and Mae. These characters were developed more than Sylvie's.  Sylvie was by far the hardest one for me to connect with. With the romance, that too was sadly lacking from the story, and could have been far more believable than it was. I liked that Bird and Sylvie grew up together, and I got their connection, but I wanted to see it come to life. Jane and Sylvie had more of a connection than anyone else. Same could be said with the villain in the story. He wasn't this fearsome character that he should have been.

While I liked understanding how they were able to survive in the forest, too much of the story focused on that, and not enough on the character developments and the story itself. Don't get me wrong. I loved the story setting. The setting is a beautiful one, and so detailed that it's easy to picture Sherwood Forest and the surrounding areas. It shouldn't have felt the middle part of this story was all about their forest survival, like it did. 

I'm so torn on this book. I liked the idea for this story, but it needed to be expanded on a lot more. Tone wise, if it didn't feel like it was confused on whether the voice was for YA or MG, and had it been one or the other, it would have been better. Just not the mix of both. The story idea is a fun one, but in the end left me wanting much more than I got from this story. I wanted to see things expanded on in greater detail and depth. I will say, if you're looking for a quick, not in depth read, than this is your book.
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A robin hood retelling with a twist. Or a not so much twist. Gender should not be a twist anymore. I think with the latest Doctor from Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker has been quoted saying ‘Women shouldn’t be a genre’ and I think that is so true. Women shouldn’t be a genre but what with mostly YA being read by young women it is not uncharacteristic to see retellings of this fashion. Personally, this one did not just click with me. I didn’t DNF it because I hoped it would get better but it just didn’t. I just don’t know what to say honestly. I see that this book has been getting quite low reviews and now I understand why. 

3 out of 5 stars.
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I had high hopes for this book and I wanted it to be good, I really did. Retellings often work for me and genderbends are always fun. Robin Hood is also a good tale that is not that common in the world of retellings. All good stuff, right? Sadly it just... did not work for me.

One of my biggest issues was the fact that all the characters felt very undeveloped. I don't know if it was the shortness of the book itself or something else, but with a lot of the characters they felt like they were only one thing, one personality trait and they all stayed like that through the whole book. Especially Bird confused me as a character because he almost did not seem real and Sylvie's only thoughts were about Bird and just bird, even when they were in serious situations. 

I had similar issues with the plot as well. A big bulk of the book is just spent in the forest, which is to be expected, but nothing really happens. The last ten pages really include all the action of the book, which just felt absurd to me. When I realised that there was still story left and that I only had 10 pages left I was convinced I was missing some pages because how on earth could the whole end fit in those 10 pages. The plot was very unbalanced and the pages could have been spent more wisely, at least in my opinion.

The book had a lot of potential though and with some more work it would have really worked for me. The characters - especially the side ones - were very interesting and would have been great if they had not just been so one-sided. The whole premise is great and like I said, I do love the idea of a female robin hood.
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When sixteen-year-old Sylvie’s brother takes over management of their family’s vast estates in The Forest Queen, Sylvie feels powerless to stop his abuse of the local commoners. Her dearest friend asks her to run away to the woods with him, and soon a host of other villagers join them. Together, they form their own community and fight to right the wrongs perpetrated by the king and his noblemen. 
I received an eARC of The Forest Queen from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I read most of The Forest Queen in one sitting, and while the world building was good, I couldn't help but feel like out should have been told from another perspective.
The Forest Queen needs trigger warnings for on page suicide attempt, food shortages, rape mention, corrupt police, murder, robbery, and incest mentions (siblings).
Cornwall wanted to create a Robin Hood retelling that focused on a heroine, but Silvie want really a heroine. there were no real stakes for her in The Forest Queen. Everything she needed fell into her lap, thanks to Bird and Little Jane. The writing was well enough, but nothing about it wowed me.
Bird and Little Jane were characters I would have loved to know more about. If anything, I would have liked to hear this story told from their perspectives, or perhaps together. They both led rich lives as commoners and discovered the injustices that Silvie only learned about because of them. I really would have liked to see more of the world from honestly any of the characters except the boring Forest Queen.
I wouldn't recommend this one, but I don't not recommend it either, if that makes sense. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything particularly great, in my opinion. Instead, try Charlotte Hamilton's queer Robin Hood retelling Lambs Can Always Become A Lion.
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Betsy Cornwell's The Forest Queen is supposed to be the retelling of Robin Hood with a feminist angle. It's a story about how a corrupt, too-powerful leader and his inner circle thrive at the expense of the common people and how one girl fights for what's right and makes a difference. Lady Silviana of Loughsley chooses to make a stand against her older brother, who just happens to be Sheriff John of Loughsley, after she learns that he is as much as a brute outside of the home, as he is at home.

The clutch comes when John attempts to marry Silvie off to someone who is much older than she is, and someone she once had a crush on after she "ruins" Prince Rioch's first hunting day. I could tell you that this is a story about a young woman who goes from a spoiled noble, to learning how to take care of herself, to learning how to accept who she's become in order to help others who have been unfairly treated, and unfairly taxed, and unfairly sent to prison because the King, Prince, and Sheriff like living the lap of luxury.

The author spends too much time with Silvie and her boyfriend Robert "Bird" Falconer, son of the huntswoman, running away into the woods and talking about the good ole days where they were free to climb trees and act like kids, and not have adult expectations shoved at them. Yes, there are moments of disagreement. Then they discover Little Jane who appears to have chosen to kill herself while being pregnant. Next comes Mae Tuck, who is a supposed to be a traveling midwife.

As you can tell, the story drags along for while as Silvie, Jane, Mae, and Bird gather those who have been treated like dogs by the Sheriff, the Prince, and the King. To make matters worse, Sheriff John suddenly becomes a pervert, and perhaps a serial rapist as well, who may have also abused his own sister.  Wow. Not the Robin Hood I remember. Nor any of the retelling's since. While the idea behind the story was a good one, I am not so sure if this is what anyone would have expected from the writer.

Personally, I expected more of the Robin Hood, and not a Maid Marian type character. Silvie is apparently good with a bow as we see in the Prologue, but I'm not sure that's good enough to carry the story. There have, and will be other books retelling Robin Hood with a gender twists in the future. I dare say that I hope they don't follow this authors huge letdown. I would suggest that if you go in looking for sweeping tales of heroism and stunning fight scenes, you may be disappointed.
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This is a telling of the Robin Hood legend, with some parts familiar and others changed to suit the characters.
Sylvie has got used to the cruelty of her brother, the new sheriff of the land. He is accustomed to treating others as he sees fit in order to improve his own standing. There comes a time when Sylvie can take it no more and she runs away to live in the forest with her childhood friend.
We watch Sylvie - the forest queen as she comes to be known - as her pairing quickly becomes a ragtag group of rebels, people who are determined not to give in to the sheriff’s demands.
The story has some interesting moments, but it really seemed to focus on exploring how their rebellion might continue.
Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this prior to publication in exchange for my thoughts.
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CW/TW: Rape, suicide, child birth

This had quite a bit of potential to be a fun, female-driven retelling of Robin Hood. Unfortunately, the book stumbles and I couldn't get passed a few things. Mostly, that none of the female characters had not much of an identity outside the males in their life. Sylvie's all about Bird or all about hating her brother. The 1.5-minute long Robin Hood song from Shrek gave him more characterization than I got in my brief reading.

Little Jane's backstory is the biggest flaw. Little John from folklore was a simply a giant man whose name was ironic. The way his female alter ego is presented makes her size something to be ashamed about, not to mention she is pregnant and her whole character arc becomes about that. I was disappointed and the experience was simply unpleasant. None of it is handled well, not to mention how the fact that her introduction is an attempted suicide is never brought up again.

From the first pages, I thought this was going to be a cute retelling, but what The Forest Queen turned into was uncomfortable at the most benign.
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I love retellings and a gender-swap Robin Hood retelling would definitely be something that I would love. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but “The Forest Queen” fell short. 

After her brother John becomes the new sheriff, Lady Silviana of Loughsley, or just Silvie, runs to the forest with her best friend Bird and Little Jane, a pregnant girl that she and Bird rescue. The forest becomes a sanctuary from the sheriff’s evil doing – a place where one can be free and Silvie can protect her people from her brother. 

The plot was so alluring, but the book was so short that it wasn’t well developed.  If it had had a few more pages, the characters (which lacked depth; they were very one-dimensional) and the plot could have been better developed. Also, there were too many characters! And some of them didn’t add anything to the plot. These pages/chapters could have been used to develop the other characters or maybe to write a longer ending since it felt so rushed.

However, this book does discuss some series issues [TRIGGER WARNING] as rape, suicide and abortion. These are themes that should be discussed more in books in such an openly way.
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I did not finish this book, the synopsis is what got me. A female robin hood story? Definitely got my attention, but upon reading, I found that the story, while well written. Did not grab my attention and I had a hard time continuing. 

I was not invested enough in the stories of the characters to find out what happened to them later on. Unfortunately it did not capture my attention. 

Thank you for the chance to read the book.
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The Forest Queen is a retelling of Robin Hood and I was excited to read it but, alas, it wasn't as good as I expected. The characters weren't fully developed, and some of them made just an appearance and nothing more, the worldbuilding was too simplistic, not much elaborated and the story itself didn't captivated me enough. It's a pity because it had the potential to be a good story.
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A unique, gender-flipped retelling of Robin Hood perfect for the younger side of young adult audiences. I'll be recommending to readers on the older side of middle grade as a good transition to "older" material.
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I received a copy of this book from NetGalley as an ARC. This review contains no paid promotion for receiving this ARC and my review is given truthfully with no influence outside of my own opinion. 
This may contain slight spoilers. 
Within the first pages of this book I was struck. My heart ached a bit in the prologue with the introduction of a brother who would watch his sister, almost lecherously. Then we move into the hunt. John’s personality was evident without being necessarily evil. He wasn’t a “bad” person, but he wasn’t a good or kind one. The scene of the hunt was where I knew I would be enjoying this book because my heart ached again, for different reasons than the first. As the retelling of Robin Hood progresses, so too do the characters. This is my only complaint in the book- The growth of one of the characters seems too flighty, insubstantial when it could be based on all she goes through. The ending is a nice and tidy wrap up needing some measure of suspension of belief. 
The author does a good job of placing the reader among the wilderness of this world. The greens, the sky, the description of both gives a feeling of the wide open and towering closeness of forests. The interwoven aristocracy view point with the girl who grew up in the trees is flawless. The story line is very true to a tale of Robin Hood all the while full of strong women who aren’t relying on men to lead. 
I was impressed by how quickly I devoured this book, in hours, not losing interest in the story line despite some areas of the book having less conflict.
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This is a re-working of Robin Hood with the Robin Hood figure recast as a young woman.  She gathers a group of people to support her and they work to undermine the current government officials, including her brother, the sheriff.  There are some big themes here of prejudice, class struggles, gender issues, and human rights as well as abuse of power.  This would be great to compare to the original Robin Hood.
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I'm always in for a good Robin Hood retelling,  but Betsy Cornwells's Forest Queen was not the best I've ever read. It was okay, but also 'meh' in some point. 

I really liked the whole idea and the characters was not so bad, but I just lost my interest about the story while reading the book. I think I had too high expectations and the whole book just ended up being so different from what i was anticipating.
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When I first picked up The Forest Queen, by Betsy Cornwall, I didn't know what to expect.  Would this be a story of female empowerment?  An adventure story?  Would there be intrigue and romance?  The answer is YES to all of it.  I found this book to be fun, and moving.  Once I started it, I could not put it down.

What I Liked:
Setting:

As with most stories with "Queen" in the title, this book takes place in an unnamed medieval country with plenty of lords and ladies, castles, and forests.  What made this setting unique was that there were also people of color mixed in.  There has been a controversy in the book world about diversity in books such as these.  Some people say, "Well, there weren't people of color in Europe in the Middle Ages".  Others correctly point out that in a fictional novel you can make your characters any color you want!  I am happy to report that the author chose the latter view.  In this story, it's the people with darker skin who are the "noble" families.  But there has been so much inter-mingling between groups that most people have traits of many cultures.  I loved that.

Characters:

I really enjoyed how all the characters changed over the course of this book.  Sylvie starts the story as a somewhat naive, privileged young woman.  She does know that others have a much harder time in life, but she hasn't seen it firsthand.  The nobles take almost everything through taxes, leaving peasants to nearly starve.  When she is confronted with this reality, Sylvie begins to see everything differently.

There are many other memorable characters such as Little Jane, Bird, Mae Tuck, and the troubadour Alana Dean.  All have experience with the unjust treatment of the nobles towards peasants.  Little Jane, in particular, haunts me.  She is pregnant (from rape), and goes from a frightened, hopeless girl, to a warm, confident mother.  Her healing was heartening to see.

Story:

It doesn't mention it in the synopsis, but this story is loosely based on Robin Hood.  This may seem silly, at first.  But the author uses this story to show a world where people who are oppressed finally fight back to gain freedom.

There was plenty of suspense as Sylvie runs away from her comfortable life as a noble and into the forest.  Will she be caught by her lecherous brother, Sheriff John?  As more and more people join them, I was worried for everyone's safety!

Later, as Sylvie starts to "take from the rich and give to the poor', there's also the constant threat of discovery and imprisonment.   I like that while Sylvie is doing this for honorable reasons, she also acknowledges the lines she is crossing (and that she gets a thrill from stealing).

Romance:

I enjoyed the tension and possible romance between Sylvie and Bird.  Childhood friends, these two must set aside questions of attraction in order to survive out in the woods.  They are too busy finding enough to eat to worry about romance.  I like that later, as they settle in, they are reluctant to be a couple as they don't want to ruin their friendship.

There is also some fun, same-sex romance for other characters!  I love that in this universe women and men find their own way to happiness without judgement.

Trigger Warning for Rape:
Rape is a theme in this book.  While there are no actual descriptions of the act itself, this may be upsetting to some readers.
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ARC provided by the publisher, HMH, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Review also posted on my blog (www.pinotandpages247.wordpress.com) and my goodreads page (www.goodreads.com/pinotandpages).

3.5/5 stars for The Forest Queen! Like I've mentioned before, retellings can always be a little hit or miss for me, and while I did have some issues with this book, it was definitely a hit! A gender-bent Robin Hood? Sign me up! I was not disappointed. 

WHAT I LOVED:
-This retelling was so well done! And with a gender twist to boot. Every major character in Robin Hood was cast as a female character, and in my opinion it only made the story that much better. 
-Silvie in the second half of the book (I'll address this more later). Second-half Silvie was strong, courageous, caring, and badass. She was also willing to admit where she was wrong, and eager to learn new things. Speaking of Silvie: her character arc was INCREDIBLE. The growth of this MC was so well done, and I applaud Ms. Cornwell. You took a main character that I truly did not like and turned her into someone I wanted to emulate. This was not an instant change, but happened slowly over the course of the book until the reader reached the end and finally realized what happened. I loved it.
-Little Jane. Another strong woman pushing boundaries, kicking ass and taking names. This character arc was also incredible. The first time we meet Little Jane is pretty disturbing and dark. By the end of the book, Little Jane is a completely different person, full of hope and purpose. She completely owns her life and herself, and never wavers from what she believes is right, despite it being opposite of what all of her family and friends think. We could all benefit from being more like Little Jane. 
-I'm actually not that familiar with the original Robin Hood story, but this book is SO. DARK. And I loved every second of it. No punches were pulled - the villain was truly evil in every aspect of the word, and frankly in some really disturbing ways. I loved how dark this book was, and how unapologetic it was about that. 

WHAT I DIDN'T:
-I'm going to start with my big problem with this book, and honestly the main reason it didn't get 4 stars. Silvie in the first half of the book. This girl was a piece of WORK. Spoiled, selfish, naive, and so undeserving of Bird and everything he did for her. I did appreciate how she owned up to her shortcomings, but for the first portion of the book I couldn't stand Silvie. Speaking of Bird, I also was very irritated with how he and Silvie danced each other. If he had any sense he would have left her in the dust, and if SHE had any sense she would have stopped treating him like a doormat. Ah well, young love. 
-These complaints are more minor, but still kept creeping into my brain. There were some significant plot holes. (examples: Why did no one ever look for Bird or Nellie when they disappeared? Speaking of Nellie, was that absence ever explained?). I also found myself skimming some of the paragraphs where not a lot was happening - I wanted more focus on the actual Robin Hood part! There were only a couple of scenes where Silvie and the band stole from the rich and gave to the poor, and I wanted MORE! 

Despite these minor complaints, I really enjoyed this gender-bent retelling! The Forest Queen is definitely worth a read if you love retellings or Robin Hood!

The Forest Queen releases on August 7, 2018.
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When sixteen-year-old Sylvie’s brother takes over management of their family’s vast estates, Sylvie feels powerless to stop his abuse of the local commoners. Her dearest friend asks her to run away to the woods with him, and soon a host of other villagers join them. Together, they form their own community and fight to right the wrongs perpetrated by the king and his noblemen.

One of my favorite things to do when I receive a new book from publishers via Netgalley, is to hold off rereading the summary of the book until I actually start reading it. It gives me the opportunity to be completely surprised by a book. This was especially enjoyable with The Forest Queen, as I had the chance to read through the book and piece together that this story is a retelling of the Robin Hood, but with some unique twists and turns. Robin Hood is one of my favorite stories so once I realized what the book was about, I was really excited to see it through to the end.

The writing and descriptions in this book was absolutely beautiful. From the opening paragraph to the epilogue, there are great descriptions of the landscape and setting of the book. I especially loved the scenes about how Sylvie and the others developed their new life in the woods, hunting, fishing, and creating their home. I don't get read a lot of "survival" stories in my genre so I enjoyed delving into that aspect of the plot. 

The main character Sylvie, is a strong-willed girl who wants badly to affect change although she comes from a place of strong privilege. She goes through a number of internal conflicts through the plot, and has a lot of obstacles to overcome. I enjoyed seeing her develop and also enjoyed her chemistry with the other character, particularly with Bird. Bird was a fun character to get to know and while he's the love interest for Sylvie, he's also her foil character, and opposes her at almost every turn. There were a lot of characters in the book, but I didn't feel like many of them were fully developed or necessarily memorable, other than Sylvie and Bird. 

This plot had a lot of promise. Everyone knows the story of Robin Hood, but with the role reversals in this story, I looked forward to seeing a new face on the original tale. There were definite moments when I was invested in the story and the plot was fast moving so the book was a quick and easy read. I was disappointment with the end, though. Many plot points were introduced to the story but nothing ever became of them. It made me wonder why they were brought up in the first place. The book was also very short, I felt like the author could have drawn the story out a bit more and done more with those plot points or make the story more complex. 

The Forest Queen is a great book if you love the legend of Robin Hood and enjoy reading gender-swaps or role-reversals. The book was a quick and easy read. I felt compelled by the plot and loved the descriptions, but felt like the characters could be more developed. The ending was somewhat disappointing, but will be great for casual readers. There are dark and sexual elements to the book, so I recommend it to the higher age group of the YA audience.
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