Monday, July 22, 2019

Review: Nottingham by Nathan Makaryk

Nottingham by Nathan Makaryk
Forge Books
Publication Date: August 6th, 2019
Hardcover. 496 pages

About Nottingham:

"Both a gripping historical epic and fascinating deconstruction of the Robin Hood legend, Nathan Makaryk's Nottingham mixes history and myth into a complex study of power--one that twists and turns far beyond the traditional tale of Sherwood Forest's iconic thief. 

No king. No rules. 

England, 1191. King Richard is half a world away, fighting for God and his own ambition. Back home, his country languishes, bankrupt and on the verge of anarchy. People with power are running unchecked. People without are growing angry. And in Nottingham, one of the largest shires in England, the sheriff seems intent on doing nothing about it. 

As the leaves turn gold in the Sherwood Forest, the lives of six people--Arable, a servant girl with a secret, Robin and William, soldiers running from their pasts, Marion, a noblewoman working for change, Guy of Gisbourne, Nottingham's beleaguered guard captain, and Elena Gamwell, a brash, ambitious thief--become intertwined. And a strange story begins to spread . . ."

I've read and watched a fair number of Robin Hood-inspired stories and retellings in my lifetime, and Nottingham has officially become one of the best that I've ever read. I've found that it is difficult to get this story just right and although many retellings come close, they always seem to have just a few things off somewhere that prevents them from becoming something incredible. Nottingham, however, had everything I could have asked for and more.

The first thing that stands out to me about Nottingham is the writing. Makaryk has a witing style that is both dense and lucid the same time. It's chock-full of information, messages, and scheming while also being highly compelling and readable at all moments. This is an extremely witty book with plenty of humor littered throughout whenever you need it, but it still takes itself seriously enough and has plenty of more sobering, somber moments to balance everything out.

Nottingham has a large cast of characters that the POV switches between throughout the story. This, of course, leads to having a lot of characters to keep track of, but it also provides an abundance of much-needed perspective and insight from people in all different situations. Robin of Locksley and William de Wendenal are, of course, probably the most prominent of the characters we follow and they both had some truly great development as characters. It was fascinating to watch how each one handled the new situations they were thrown into and how there reactions were both similar and dissimilar and how this eventually led to the events of the final few pages of this book. I would love to go into more depth and detail about the various characters, but I know that if I talked about one I'd have to talk about them all, and none of us have time for that in this review so just know that they all bring something noteworthy to the story and are wonderfully and carefully crafted.

The best part about having so many different perspectives depicted in Nottingham was how it contributed to the idea that there are endless grey areas in morals and how truly unclear and fuzzy the lines of what's right and what's wrong in life really are. You could easily be reading the POV of a specific character, fully understanding their reasoning for an action they aim to undertake, and then you switch over to someone who opposes the previous character's opinions and suddenly find the previous argument utterly repulsive and incomprehensible. Makaryk is a master at both creating charismatic characters that are neither fully good nor fully bad and at creating situations that have no right or wrong, and instead are full of difficult decisions and a sense of uncertainty surrounding them.

Makaryk also does a great job in the realm of world-building. This isn't a fantasy so there's nothing exceptionally 'new' or unheard of that Makaryk has to create, as much of it is drawn from the relevant historical period, but he still creates a highly realistic layout of the time period and presents the struggle of the rich versus the poor extremely well. This also leads me to the praise of the political drama and scheming that is highly present--and rather crucial--to the entire story. There is so much scheming in this book, all of which is done with a superb hand and in a manner that makes it impossible to stop reading.

In addition to all of the praise mentioned above, I also would like to touch on how much I loved the themes and thought-provoking ideas that Makaryk explores in this book. The struggle between rich and poor, how leaders make decisions, how people are motivated to do take certain actions--or not take them--how difficult it is to ever make decisions that leaves the majority of people happy. All of these topics and more are explored in such a thought-provoking and well-developed manner that I still continue to think about this book long after having put it down.

My only minor complaints involve a few instances where what seemed to be small anachronisms made me scratch my head. However, I do want to note that this was only minor and hardly removed any of my enjoyment of this book. I was never pulled out of the story and still maintained a solid interest and focus in the story, but I do feel that this is still something important to note.

Overall, I've easily given Nottingham 4.75 stars! I had a fantastic time reading this book. It has the perfect balance of drama, humor, intriguing plot points, and a highly charismatic and well-developed cast of characters. If you haven't read this book yet, go read it and join me in the wait for the sequel!

*I received an ARC of Nottingham courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the novel.*


  1. I read a Robin Hood retelling earlier this year, Sherwood, and I think this is only the second one I've heard of! I love that there's lots of scheming, and I agree, I like when there's lots of character POVs because you really get a better view of the story, that isn't clouded by just one character.

  2. I loved this spin on the Robin Hood tale. I found my own loyalties torn between the different sides. The fights had my heart racing. The ending was... unexpectedly perfect.