The Sherwood Ring

I can’t quite recall what first drew me to The Sherwood Ring when I was at the October book sale. The title seemed to promise adventure, while the cover featured colonial costumes, and I recognized Elizabeth Marie Pope as the author of Newbery Honor book The Perilous Gard. Then I read the description, and immediately knew I would love this book.

Newly orphaned Peggy Grahame is caught off-guard when she first arrives at her family’s ancestral estate. Her eccentric uncle Enos drives away her only new acquaintance, Pat, a handsome British scholar, then leaves Peggy to fend for herself. But she is not alone. The house is full of mysteries–and ghosts. Soon Peggy becomes involved with the spirits of her own Colonial ancestors and witnesses the unfolding of a centuries-old romance against a backdrop of spies and intrigue and of battles plotted and foiled. History has never been so exciting!

Ghosts, the Revolutionary War, and an old-fashioned romance? Those are three of my favorite fictional elements, and the mystery/espionage mixed in only made a great book better. I think I was smiling the entire time while I was reading. I enjoyed this book so much, and if I had known about it at a younger age it probably would have been read several times by now.

Technically this is a children’s book, but it doesn’t read like one. Though Peggy is referred to by her uncle as a child, she seems to be at least 16, and the eighteenth-century characters are certainly old enough to be in the army and get engaged. I would put the intended audience as about on par with Mabel Esther Allan’s young adult books, in that the plots are basically romantic suspense but the characters are young enough to be interesting to a teen audience.

The book was originally written in 1958, and even the modern-day scenes have a sort of wholesomeness about them that you don’t always seem to find in current books; I could sense it even before I looked back at the copyright page. My only complaint is that we didn’t seem to see enough of the contemporary side of the story until the end. I was definitely caught up in the escapades of Peaceable Sherwood, but I wished Peggy had been less of a frame tale. For a while she seems to function mainly as a response and reflection of events in the past. For example, all her actual visits to Mrs. Dykemann’s boarding house are pretty much skipped over except for a mention, but could have helped round out the story a bit more.

I’m a little ashamed to say that I never actually read The Perilous Gard; I had acquired several used Newbery books all at once but was already starting to move to adult books. I believe it’s set a little earlier, during 16th-century England, but still seems to promise adventure and fantastic elements.  I’ll be keeping it in mind for next time I’m in the mood for good historical fiction.

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Published in: on December 1, 2010 at 4:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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