Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Will in Scarlet

Will in Scarlet

Matthew Cody
For ages 10 and up
Unabridged audiobook (CD)
Performed/read by: Maxwell Caulfield
Listening Library , 2013   ISBN: 978-0804123310

William Shackley, the heir to Lord Shackley, is thirteen years old and so far he has spent those thirteen years being a boy, a boy who often gets into trouble for childish pranks. Two years ago Will’s father left England to accompany King Richard on his crusade to the holy land. Now the king and Lord Shackley are on their way back, and it is time to Will to become a man, “a great lord of men.” The problem is that Will has no idea how to be a man. “Aren’t there any books on the subject?” he wonders.

   Will, his brother and several other knights go on a wolf hunt one night and more by accident than anything else Will kills two wolves. He is hailed as “Wolfslayer,” a title which he is not altogether sure if he has rightfully earned. Will is looking forward to the festive season when the sheriff of Nottingham turns up and he brings Sir Guy of Gisborne with him. Will and his family hear that King Richard and Lord Shackley have been taken prisoner. Presumably a ransom will have to be paid to secure their release. Sir Guy is a staunch supporter of Prince John and he is not pleased when Will’s uncle Geoff, who is managing the family estates during his brother’s absence, shows that he will not turn his back on King Richard. Secretly, Sir Guy plots to force Will’s uncle to declare his allegiance to Prince John. He frames Will for murder, expecting Geoff to comply with his wishes. Instead, a fight breaks out, Geoff is killed, and Will and his mother are forced to flee. By sheer ill luck Will is attacked by bandits and is gravely injured. He is than found by another group of bandits, who are led by a man called Gilbert the White Hand. A young member of the bandit crew, Much the miller’s son, is given the job of looking after Will. The hope is that Will will be worth something, that his family will be willing to pay a ransom for his return.

   Will, pretending to be a steward’s son, manages to persuade Gilbert to let him to go Shackley Castle. He assures his captors that he knows the location of a tunnel that leads into the castle and that he knows where a treasure is hidden. Thus Will, Much, Little John, Rob, and Stout make their way into the castle. The true bandits have no idea that Will’s intention is to kill Guy of Gisborne and get his home and title back. In addition, Will, Little John, and Stout have no idea that Much is not the miller’s son at all. She is the miller’s daughter who is masquerading as a boy for her own safety.

   Not surprisingly the bandits’ plans goes awry, but the expedition is not a loss. Rob is forced to sober up, and Will learns that the world he lives in is not what he expected. For the first time in his life he sees what the real England is like, and the picture is a very ugly one. He has to decide if he is going to be a bandit, a lord, or something else of his making.

  In this exciting and unique audio book Mathew Cody tells the story of Robin Hood and his “Merry Men” in a very different way. He tells his tale in such a way that we follow the stories of several characters, all of whom are very different.  We also learn a great deal about what it was really like to live in England during the reign of King Richard. Anyone who wasn’t an aristocrat, or who had the ear of an aristocrat, had to struggle to survive, and the serfs could barely call their lives their own. It was not a world for the unwary or the naïve.