Are you a fan of Robin Hood and other medieval tales like those of Game of Thrones? Then you will love Ivanhoe! Set in 12th century England, this is a book that may appear like a historical novel, but is more deserving of a place on the romance shelf.
If you’ve read any book or watched any TV series about the middle ages, you probably know what to expect – honor, war, duels and of course, forbidden love. Ivanhoe is no different, but what sets it apart is how skillfully Sir William Scott brings out the conflict between the characters or tribes. For a change, he doesn’t focus too much on the characterization of the people; rather he puts his emphasis on the events that occur. The social mores of those times are a common underlying thread throughout the book – the hostility towards other religious groups, unjust judgment of women, the class system and the blind allegiance to ruling powers. Wait, aren’t all those things happening today too?
As you read the book, you’ll find that some of the side characters are better developed than the main characters, even Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe, our protagonist. I feel the women are more than purely ornamental, although we’re talking about the middle ages here, so there’s only so much feminism you can find!
For many people, this novel is the base for all the Robin Hood tales, and that’s as far as the credit they’ll give Ivanhoe. While it is true that Robin Hood and his merry men originated here, limiting the novel to this description is doing it a disservice. It is to Scott’s credit that he’s taken a historical tale and given it a romantic twist, with some unforgettable characters along the way. The language may take you longer to get through the book than others, but it really contributes in re-creating 12th century Scotland for you. As you read, large green grasslands open up, castles and drawbridges spring up, and you can hear the trot of horses – everything comes alive in your mind’s eye!