The Forest Queen

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 07 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

It's taken me quite a while to decide to not finish this one.  My mistake might have been that I had high hopes.  Regardless, The Forest Queen was simply not for me.

Please note that I do not write reviews for books I don't finish.  I appreciate the opportunity to read this book.
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DNF. I'm sorry. I just couldn't bring myself to get into this book for some reason. It just seemed a little lackluster and there were some really heavy TW: Suicide parts. But please give it a try for yourself!
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I've always been a sucker for gorgeous covers, but it was definitely the writing that kept me in this novel. The beauty inside genuinely matches that of the outside, for sure.
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I had such high hopes for this book, and the twist on the whole Robin Hood story was so intriguing at first, but alas, this book just wasn't as great as I hoped it would be.
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This book was a unique retelling of the age old story of Robin Hood taking advantage of the ambiguities in the legend. It was interesting and fun, while simultaneously exploring some of the darker sides of gender, class, and the realities of choosing a life that estranged you from everything you have ever known.
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The Forest Queen was my first foray into Betsy Cornwell’s books and I feel like I made the right choice starting with this one.  It’s pitched as a gender swapped retelling of Robin Hood but it’s so much more than that.  While that description will definitely be what draws readers to it, the amazing cast of characters, sweet romance, and fast-paced story will be what keeps readers hooked.

Going into The Forest Queen, I really did not have any kind of expectations.  That worked in my favor here.  With no prior knowledge of Betsy Cornwell’s writing and no reviews for this one floating around in my head, I was able to enjoy The Forest Queen for exactly what it was; a Robin Hood retelling centering around a group of empowered females.  There was more to it than that but those were by far my favorite aspects of the story.

Sylvie of Loughsley was not a fabulous heroine at the start of the story.  She was raised with money and she had only ever known privilege.  When her brother, Sheriff John of Loughsley, promises to marry her to a man she barely knows, she decides it’s past time to move to the forest with her best friend Bird. It was difficult for me to get past Sylvie’s inability to do anything for herself as well as her naivete when it came to the rest of the world.  She left with Bird and Little Jane with almost no thought and no idea how she was going to survive in the forest.

If it hadn’t been for Bird, Little Jane, and the other townspeople who joined them in the forest, Sylvie never would have survived.  Little Jane surprised me from the start.  She had an extremely rough go of it and while she had her moments of weakness, she proved herself to be a very strong, capable young woman.  She constantly impressed me with her strength of character.

As far as romance went, it was obvious from the start that there was more than just friendship between Bird and Sylvie.  It was a huge draw for me to keep reading because I wanted to see how things would develop between them.  Bird and Sylvie had some great chemistry between them.  Their relationship was very much a slow burn which made me love it even more.

Overall, The Forest Queen has me intrigued enough to give Betsy Cornwell’s other books a chance.  Robin Hood fans will definitely find something to love about The Forest Queen and even if that’s not a retelling you’re fond of, there are enough unique elements that you can find something to enjoy about this one.
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There were a few triggers in the book that I was not fond of. The plot sounded great before reading. The romance was great.  But reading it, it was triggering and underwhelming.
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It's strange but it's really hard for me to give my opinion about this book. I have such a mixed feeling about it.

I liked some part of it but I guess I didn't love it. I didn't feel any connection. I just read it but everything happening in it didn't matter to me. It's a really strange feeling. I guess it was okay but definitely didn't love it.
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I really liked the idea of a gender-flipped Robin Hood and it was fun to see how the author played with elements from the traditional Robin Hood stories. There were darker elements that some readers may find disturbing, such as suicide and abuse. I didn't fully connect with the characters but I found this book intriguing enough that I would read a sequel.
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A great gender-bent Robin Hood tale! It definitely kept me hooked from start to finish. My only qualm was the fact that some loose ends were definitely left hanging. Like where does Nellie mysteriously disappear to at the festival? How did John find them? Did he follow them or did Nellie betray them? And then the epilogue occurs like 3 years later with no definite resolution of the problem the peasants are facing. Like do they revolt and overthrow the king or come to a truce? The king obviously can't ignore whats happening in his kingdom? SO hopefully the other releases a sequel to address these issues.
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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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