ARC review! Brightfall by Jaime Lee Moyer

It’s been a mostly quiet life since Robin Hood denounced Marian, his pregnant wife, and his former life and retreated to a monastery to repent his sins . . . although no one knows what he did that was so heinous he would leave behind Sherwood Forest and those he loved most.

But when friends from their outlaw days start dying, Father Tuck, now the Abbott of St. Mary’s, suspects a curse and begs Marian to use her magic to break it. A grieving Marian bargains for protection for her children before she sets out with a soldier who’s lost his faith, a trickster Fey lord and a sullen Robin Hood, angry at being drawn back into the real world.

Marian soon finds herself enmeshed in a maze of betrayals, tangled relationships and a vicious struggle for the Fey throne . . . and if she can’t find and stop the spell-caster, no protection in Sherwood Forest will be enough to save her children.

The story starts roughly 12 years after the ‘Robin Hood’ tale we all know and love. When Marian found out she was pregnant, Robin left her, got their marriage annulled and joined the church. Now Father Tuck brings bad tidings to Marian’s doorstep. Will Scarlet, and many more of the Merry Men have died under suspicious circumstances. Knowing Tuck would only bring this to her if he suspected magic, Marion sets off to find the reason behind these mysterious deaths before any more of her friends meet their end, and on the way she will meet a mysterious Fae lord, and possibly the one man who can heal her broken heart.

Wow! This book was everything I love in a good retelling. Mythical, magical and mysterious, I found myself flying through the pages, following Marion on her journey to save her friends. I loved how Moyer managed to entwine the original story line with the magical world of Sherwood forest she weaves. Mixing well loved characters with new ones that enter our hearts just as fully.

Marion is such a strong heroine. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story from her perspective, hearing about her blind love for Robin, without knowing much about the man underneath the myth. Having not seen him since their children had been born, being thrust together on this mission makes her truly look at the man she once blindly adored and realise that she might not have truly known him at all. She shows her strength through her resilience to Robins barbs about her magic, her willingness to thrust herself into danger to save the ones she loves, and her absolute faith that she will find the perpetrator before any more of their friends or family die.

Marion is by far the main character, though she does travel with a trio of men, a fox and a dog. Robin is not the lovable rogue we remember him to be. Sure that Marion will rot in hell for her use of witchcraft, his blind loyalty to god and the secrets her carries, make for a shocking ending to the book. Uncle Burt as we know him is the Fae lord sent to ensure Marion finds the cause of these deaths, Jack is someone who is unwittingly roped into the scheme. Having the ‘sight’ makes him an invaluable asset and Marion may depend on him more than she realises. Finally Beatrice the fox and Julian the dog, both blessed with the sight and serve as warning beacons to any approaching danger. Marion would never have been able to complete the quest without her own band of ‘merry men.’ Each having an important part to play in the plot.

The writing in this book is sublime. Wonderfully lyrical, the authors descriptions had me travelling right alongside the group. At points the book was increasingly intense and I found myself at the edge of my seat unsure whether I would get the outcome I wanted. With plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing, you’re never quite sure who is behind the attacks until bam! The author drops the bomb and you look back at the whole book realising it was pretty much in front of your face the whole time.

This was an easy 5/5 for me. Perfect for fans of Naomi Novik or Katherine Arden. This is a truly magical retelling of a treasured story we all know and love. I will definitely be picking up more of the authors books after finishing this.

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