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A Cold Summer Night
Trystam Kith
Five Star, 209 pages

A Cold Summer Night
Trystam Kith
Trystam Kith is a lifelong student of folklore, fairy tales, legends, myths, superstitions, religions, and cultural anthrolopology. Kith is a native Californian.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

The Sheriff of Nottingham, Hugh deSteny, feels his blood chill when he is told of bodies found in a crofter's hut in Sherwood Forest. The bodies were completely drained of blood, no wounds save for four small puncture holes, not a drop spilled anywhere in evidence. On the crusades, he saw and fought monsters capable of this, and fears greatly for the safety of his people. He sends a letter to Prince John, a man said to own well over 200 books, and perhaps the only person with the knowledge to help. His liege lord, Sir Gui deGisbourne, could hardly care about the poor who live in Sherwood, or the travelers who must cross through the vast, deep forest. His concern is for his upcoming nuptials to Marian deBeuchamp, whom he wants deSteny to go and fetch -- his travels, of course, will take him right through the forest -- and into the reach of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men, who slake their thirst, not for gold, but for blood, on all who are foolish enough to come near.

Not the familiar story at all, isn't it? But from the beginning, nothing is familiar. Having read, and treasured, the story of Robin Hood almost as I treasure King Arthur, I could see the bones beneath the surface of this story. The familiar things are there. You will find yourself with a person, and realize, suddenly, just who they are. Situations, such as the famous quarterstaff fight at the river crossing are brought in, and changed to fit a terrifying and page-turning story that warps your perception of what you thought you knew.

You know it's going to be this way, even before you hit page one, as Kith relates a quick list of historical facts: that the Lion Heart bankrupted England twice, that Prince John was a well-read man who, unlike those before him, could speak the language of his people, that he had no choice but to raise the taxes. Already, we begin to see Prince John differently, which prepares us for the infamous Sheriff. I confess, my view of the Sheriff has been permanently altered by Alan Rickman's movie portrayal, (just as my view of Robin Hood will always be Errol Flynn) but the Sheriff we meet is a calm, introspective man, one who is extremely generous at every turn, trying to take care of his men, paying peasants and crofters more money than needed. He has had a past shame. Something, though we don't know what, happened on the Crusade, dishonoring him. He is subservient to deGisbourne, a ridiculous popinjay who has no care for anything but hunting and pretty clothes, a position that rankles only because he can never get Gui to concentrate on the things that matter and give him help. You can not help but truly like deSteny.

The setting is extremely frightening. Sherwood Forest is filled with fortified crofts and monasteries, places you would think that the people we follow on their journey though this eerie place would be safe. Not so. Robin Hood has made arrangements with many places, a body of a traveler in exchange for no one who actually merits getting hurt, and so you don't know who will wake up with one of their members missing. Each familiar name is brought in very cleverly.

This gloriously scary, historically sound (well, except for the vampires, of course) fantasy is only half of a two part series.

Copyright © 2005 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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