James Black’s first novel is the first in a series of bizarre ‘mash ups’ for older children and young adults. This first instalment sees Robin Hood battling a host of zombies to save his merry men, the people of Nottingham and his country.
The book is aimed primarily at young boys aged around 11 and over, so starting the book I was rather sceptical about its appeal to a 25-year-old woman. But the amount of gore, intrigue and horror is pretty overwhelming. In fact, this book, in most parts, is downright disgusting, which is very surprising and exciting for a new children’s series.
Although this is a mash up of two unrelated genres, this unlikely pairing becomes well suited. Set in 1194, we follow Robin the outlaw in his camp in Sherwood Forest along with Little John, Maid Marian, Friar Tuck and Will Scarlet. The atmosphere of the camp is murky, dark, isolated and at a time where plagues were common, the downtrodden atmosphere is actually quite fitting for an outbreak of undead monsters wanting to feast on human flesh.
As previously mentioned, this book does not hold back. I’ve seen my fair share of horror films and read many Stephen King novels, and have to say the detail in which these zombies tear people apart and ooze puss from their open sores is reminiscent of an adult horror novel. Certain parts will make you cringe and flinch, especially the descriptions of dismemberment in battle scenes.
No Robin Hood story would be complete without the necessary bad guys. The Sheriff of Nottingham, Prince John and the witch, Mother Maudlin, re all present in this retelling of history and the bad guys are as ruthless as ever. It’s hard not reading this with a picture of Alan Rickman as the sheriff in your head. He was just too good at that role, wasn’t he?
The group of outlaw bandits realise the people of Nottingham are coming down with plague symptoms, but instead of dying, they seem to be on the verge of death and life and it is spreading fast. Knowing that the Sheriff and Mother Maudlin are involved in these mysterious happenings, it is down to Robin and his men to stop them before the outbreak of the dead destroys the entire kingdom.
This series may come under criticism for jumping on the bandwagon. Right now zombies are very popular (Zombie Pride And Prejudice is being adapted for the big screen), but the series shows real promise, and although it may not be completely original in terms of material, the writing is very engaging and the action parts of the novel are enticing.
It’s a great way to get young people reading, but even better, it’s an excellent taster for new readers to the horror genre. Just as long as their stomachs were able to put up with this one. For those with strong constitutions, the second instalment in the series, Blackbeard’s Pirates Vs The Evil Mummies, will be released July 2011.
Robin Hood Vs The Plague Undead is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.
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