The Forest Queen
THE FOREST QUEEN by Betsy Cornwell caught my eye at first glance. The cover is beautiful and promises a tale of adventure ahead. On it is a quote, “She robs from the rich to give to the poor,” so right away, we know this is a Robin Hood retelling with a female protagonist. The story follows Silvie and her escape from her brother, John, the town sheriff. Silvie steals away to the forest with her childhood friend, Bird, and a girl who has been cast out by her father. Together, they welcome anyone who needs to escape John’s harsh policies and begin to build a refuge. Silvie lives in fear of John, who has his own dark reasons for finding her, but if she wants to help herself and more people, she’ll have to take him down once and for all.
Cornwell’s writing is lush and descriptive, and I can sense inspiration from Ireland, where she’s currently living. This style gave the story a magical, fairytale feel with a contemporary update. Cornwell includes subtle political commentary, particularly about feminism, freedom, and women’s relationships to each other. She also calls Silvie and her group "revolutionaries," citing living as rebellion “if someone doesn’t care whether you live or die.” This quote, and book, inspires those who feel destitute and encourages them to forge their own way. Cornwell also has diverse characters, addresses gender norms, and presents teenage pregnancy in a new light.
Overall, I love the idea of this book, but there were multiple times that I was completely lost and had no clue what was happening. The action wasn’t clear and I couldn’t visualize the events as they occurred. Also, I wasn’t fully satisfied with the culmination of Silvie and Bird’s relationship. Cornwell does a great job at creating the sexual tension between the two friends for the entire novel, but there’s minimal payoff. We know they will eventually get together, but the scene when they express their love for each other doesn’t do the buildup justice.
With that being said, I did enjoy the book on a whole and would recommend it to anyone looking for a story of fantastical whimsy with a kick-butt female protagonist.