Who knew that Spider-Man and Robin Hood had so much in common? Doing a quick google search will tell you the lack of connection between the two. You might find Spider-Man’s similarities with Batman or Batman’s similarities with Robin Hood but not Spider-Man and Robin Hood. I did find that an old TV cartoon of Robin Hood was re-used for an old TV cartoon of Spider-Man but that was because of a lack of budget on the producer’s part. Why, you are asking, am I talking about Spider-Man and Robin Hood when the book we read this month was Wayfarer by K. M. Weiland?
The connection for me happened when I was trying to describe the Wayfarer to my husband. The main character, Will Hardy, is a poor teenager living with Tom (Aunt Mae?), a man who took him under his wing when Will’s parents died. Hardy has an encounter with Isabella (Mary Jane) who is out of his class, unreachable, and falls “in love” with her. Then, a super rich guy, Fitzroy a.k.a. Norman Osborn, wants to hire Will. From the get go, Fitzroy asks Will to compromise his conscience by bribing him. Because of this, Will ends up in a barn (science lab) where he is injured and infected with the plague (bit by a spider). Will’s DNA is changed and is given super powers: incredible speed which allows him to “fly” from roof top to roof top, to climb up walls, etc.
The similarities don’t end there. Did I mention that Isabella is engaged to Fitzroy’s son? or that Will tries to help save Tom from debtor’s prison by preventing robberies around town? Oh, and Fitzroy has super powers too! Instead of speed, Fitzroy has the ability to project illusions which he then uses to terrorize London. There you have it. Wayfarer is a re-telling of Spider-Man. No questions about it. But what does Robin Hood have to do with anything? At this point, I might not have even noticed the similarities with Robin Hood if it weren’t for the author saying it out right in the dialogue.
“Of course, she knows him. It’s all Robin Hood and Marian with them, isn’t it though?”Weiland, K. M., Wayfarer, page 368
Now that I know Weiland was trying to tell Robin Hood’s story, I have to do the comparison. It’s clear Will and Isabella could be Robin and Marian instead of Peter and Mary (notice similarities in the lady’s name). Although Robin Hood has most recently been depicted as nobility, in the earliest versions, he was a commoner like our friend Will. You might see the social class inequalities. And Will does acquire his merry band of men in the Seven Dials after being framed for murder. These men are outlaws in essence and welcome Will who is named an outlaw under false accusations. Fitzroy can, also, be seen as usurping power that doesn’t belong to him like Prince John does in the absence of King Richard. But the best argument that Will is Robin Hood is his helping the poor, the lower classes to fight back against the usurper. He only does this by understanding that with “great powers comes great responsibility” (Spider-Man?).
What makes this book unique? I’m not a huge fan of re-tellings but this one is good. I like the setting: 1820s London. I like the weaknesses that accompany the super powers, and from the opening chapter, Weiland keeps the reader curious about how good will prevail in the end. The journey is what this story is about. The journey and the characters. Will has to learn how to grow up and what responsibility looks like. The stakes are high with a very cunning and convincing enemy. Why do we like any superhero story? It’s the action packed sequences or maybe the character arc. Either way this book delivers on both accounts. Even though, I feel like I’m in that beginner writer stage of seeing the mechanics behind every story and therefore inherently lose that reader enjoyment to a degree, Weiland still made me shed real tears over the characters. She definitely has a way with words and pulling you into the story and knows how to keep the story moving forward. Boy, does she like cliff hangers at the end of her chapters!
Did you like the book? What similarities did I miss? Do you have a favorite character? Why? Was the book too formulaic? Do you agree? Is Wayfarer a retelling of Spider-Man, Robin Hood, or both?
For our next book of the month, we’ll read The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal, book #2 in the Lady Astronaut series. I think, even if you didn’t read book #1 with me last year, you could probably read this one without any problems. I know I promised a full list of the books for this year. I will provide. But it’ll be in a separate post. Until then, Happy Reading!