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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead

A reluctant leader struggles but finally becomes an outlaw King for his people.

  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (April 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595543295
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595543295
     Genre: Historical Fiction
     My Rating: 3.5
Robin Hood: The Legend Begins Anew
For centuries, the legend of Robin Hood and his band of thieves has captivated the imagination. Now the familiar tale takes on new life, fresh meaning, and an unexpected setting.

Hunted like an animal by Norman invaders, Bran ap Brychan, heir to the throne Elfael, has abandoned his father's kingdom and fled to the greenwood. There, in the primeval forest of the Welsh borders, danger surrounds him—for this woodland is a living, breathing entity with mysterious powers and secrets, and Bran must find a way to make it his own if he is to survive.

Like the forest itself, Hood is deep, dark, and at times savagely brutal—yet full of enchantment and hope. Internationally-acclaimed author Stephen R. Lawhead has created a lyrical rendering of a time-honored story that will lead you down strange pathways into another time and place.

Review:  This is an interesting version of the Robin Hood story. The author has placed the character of Hood in the  forest of Wales in the 11th Century.

The protagonist, Bran, is the resentful and disrespectful son of the King of Elfael - a small fortress in Wales. Bran has no motivation to take on the duties of a Prince or King. Bran is not an immediately likeable character - he is lazy, selfish, impulsive and foolish.  It was not until near the end that he begin to care for the welfare of the people and begin to assert himself as a leader.

Bran’s father, the King, is on his way to give his pledge to King William the Red when he encounters a Norman Baron who claims he has been given the land grant to Elfael. The Norman knights trap the Cymry party killing the king so he cannot reclaim the land. The only Briton to survive the attack is the king’s old champion, Iwan.

Bran, Iwan and Brother Ffreol travel to Lundien to seek return of the land. Along the way they take shelter with another priest, whom they nickname Friar Tuck. Friar Tuck nicknames the big knight, Iwan, as Little John.

Bran meets treachery and betrayal on every side. He flees north, stopping to say goodbye to his sweetheart, Merian. When he helps defend villagers from Ffrreinc soldiers he is hunted down and left for dead.

An old woman finds Bran in the deep woods and rescues him. While he struggles with fever, she tells him a very strange tale. He has vivid dreams of a beautiful maiden, a challenge to win her hand, and a trap ending in his taking responsibilities for the land that he didn’t want.

After more betrayal Bran takes to the woods as an outlaw. He makes a disguising hood that makes him look like a raven. Then he and his friends begin to steal from the wealthy and terrorize the oppressors.

I thought this read a bit slowly. I had to reread parts to settle in my mind the historical time and place and there were parts of conflicts that I thought were unnecessarily long. I found the allegory a little hard to follow, although there is clearly despair and chaos when evil surrounds the people and they have no leader and no hope. (Thanks to my friend Susan for helping me understand that bit.)

There are portions of writing that are wonderful in imagery and intensity. Bran’s grief and rage upon coming upon the carnage of the battle is excellently portrayed and then followed by a beautiful prayer. The old woman nursing Bran sings a wonderful old song. There is an overall feeling that this is real legend telling.

This was read by our church ladies’ book club. One of the readers loved it and immediately bought the sequel. Another didn’t like the style. I enjoyed the history, the twist on the Robin Hood legend and the rich writing style. Unfortunately I wasn’t really enthralled with the story.


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