and Friar Tuck
together once again...but not quite
as all of us remember them:
Never fear HOODites
...Sir Daffy’s “oscar worthy” portrayal notwithstanding, Stephen Lawhead’s re-imagining of the Robin Hood legend is among the best I’ve come across and is praise-deserving for both its realism and its fresh, unique interpretation of the familiar tale. For the most part, I found this version very effective.
Rather than England’s well trodden Sherwood Forest, Lawhead has transported his story to the dense, primeval forests of Wales and set the tale during the late 11th century, immediately following the Norman conquest of England under William the Conqueror. Yep, the French have landed in England and they are tossing farm animals and farting in everyone's general direction.
While consolidating his rule in England, William has turned his hungry eyes toward Wales and has begun confiscating (a governmental euphemism for stealing) Welsh lands and bestowing them on his most loyal followers. This extreme redistribution of wealth causes quite a bit of WTF
in Bran ap Brychan, heir to the throne of Elfael, especially after his poppa is rendered life-impaired by a group of vile Frenchies on their way to take possession of Bran’s home.
Later, after being rendered “mostly dead” himself (i.e., “slightly alive”), Bran manages to pull a Houdini and escapes deep into the heart of the ancient Welsh woods. There he meets a mysterious healer/sage/poetess who nurses Bran back to health while simultaneously educating/indoctrinating him in the lore of the mythical Raven King. And after much anecdoting, some events, some mythical yarn-spinning and some more events, including the creation of the trademark bow, the avenging angel known as “the Hood” is born.
I don’t want to spill specific spoilage about Bran’s transformation because part of the charm of the story to watch the becoming slowly unfold. While I think it went on a little longer than I would have liked, Lawhead’s depiction of Bran growing in his new role was very well done...I see eerie similarities between Bruce Wayne’s transformation into the Dark Knight in Batman Begins
. Yes, I went there and I stand by it.
Lawhead plays the story as straight historical fiction but provides enough mystery that some elements lend themselves to “fantastic” interpretation. I think Lawhead straddles this line deftly without losing his balance. Additionally, his use of Welsh/Irish/English myth and legend is polished and seamlessly woven into the story of the Raven King (at least in my limited knowledge) and I give him full marks for his use of these elements in the narrative.
All this begs the question...WHY oh WHY only 3 stars?
The short answer is, I’m not entirely sure and may revisit this after reading the next two books which I intend to do. I certainly enjoyed it and think the background, the characters and the story were very good. There were some slow plot spots and a few times when I found my attention doing a bit of wandering and in the end there was not enough “cracking of Norman nuts” to give me a full dose of the satisfieds
. Still, I liked it. I just wasn’t quite smitten enough to grant the 4th star. I feel a bit stingy because of it, but there you go.
3.5 stars.....oh so close to 4. Highly Recommended!!