Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest - Nancy Springer

I came to this series because I was so deeply impressed by another series by the same author – Enola Holmes – which tells the story of Sherlock Holmes’s much younger sister. Honestly, at first it sounded preposterous to me, but I was assured by a trusted source that it was better than it sounded.  And Springer completely confounded my expectations and I ended up devouring all six books in the series last year and then felt genuinely despondent when there were no more left to read.

 

What made Enola work is that Springer cleverly made it less about creating a female version of Sherlock Holmes and much more about the deeply sexist and oppressive nature of Victorian England. Contrary to my expectations Enola (thankfully) never teams up with her brother to fight crime. In fact, for much of the series, Sherlock is her main adversary as he seeks to force her into a traditional female role.

 

Similarly, Rowan (daughter of Robin Hood) struggles against medieval notions of femininity and has the daunting task of gaining access to the completely male dominated Sherwood outlaws. And yet, I found myself much far less engaged in Rowan’s story. It was enjoyable enough in the moment, but after I finished this I thought, 'this really must have written very long ago' because the difference in the writing, plotting, and depth of character is truly extreme.  But, no – the Rowan Hood series was published in between 2001 and 2005 and Enola Holmes between 2006 and 2010. 

 

I may continue with the Rowan series (there are four more), but not any time soon. For me, it’s just not in the same ballpark as the Enola series.