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Review of Hood by Stephen Lawhead

Hood - Stephen Lawhead - Robin Hood - Medieval England - Medieval Wales - Historical Fiction - Medieval History - Middles Ages History - Will Scarlet - Friar Tuck - Little John - Maid MarianHood (The King Raven Trilogy, Book 1)
Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (April 8, 2008)
ISBN-10: 1595543295

The legend of Robin Hood is re-shaped in this historical fiction novel by Stephen Lawhead. Instead of the traditional setting of medieval England, Lawhead places Robin Hood (called Bran) in the deep forests of Wales in 1093. In an author’s note, Lawhead explains why he placed the character in this setting, as his extensive research led him to believe this was where the true man behind the myth could be found.

As the Norman advance spreads across England into Wales, Bran’s father, the king of Elfael, gathers an army to ride out and meet the enemy, but the Normans kill him and his warriors in an ambush, leaving Bran as the sole successor to the throne. Instead of taking up his rightful position and defending his kingdom, Bran flees, and the Normans pursue him across Wales. They eventually catch him and wound him, and for the greater part of the novel, Bran spends his time in the wilderness recovering from his injuries under the care of an elderly woman mystic. This woman not only restores his health but gives Bran to the courage and faith to ascend to his destiny and lead his kingdom out of Norman oppression.

I’m not sure I like or agree with Lawhead’s approach to creating a Robin Hood of Welsh origin, but the author does state his case, and it’s conceivable that he could have been from Wales, if he actually existed at all. The story starts off quickly but bogs down a good bit in the middle when Bran is recovering from his wounds and living under the care of the elderly woman. I felt Lawhead could have shortened this part significantly, which would have allowed him more time to spend on the other characters. Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, and Little John do make an appearance — though their characters are also different from the traditonal legend — but their roles are limited, and I never felt like I got to know them all that well. The reader spends more time getting to know Bran, and you see how his sense of courage and justice and faith begins to grow throughout the story. The pace of the novel picks back up in the end, propelling readers into the next novel in the trilogy, Scarlet.

The novel piqued my interest enough to read the next installment, even though the first book fell short in several key areas, namely: character development, pacing, and dialogue. The next two novels in the King Raven Trilogy are Scarlet and Tuck. I’m assuming, based on the titles, that Lawhead focuses more on Will Scarlet and Friar Tuck in these books, which may explain why their characters did not receive much attention in Hood.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

6 thoughts on “Review of Hood by Stephen Lawhead”

  1. I seem to remember that in myth (which genre this story seems to belong to) – the protagonist has to retreat and “find himself”, make himself whole. ONly then can the hero do heroic things. Your good review makes me think I will skip this one.

  2. Steven,

    A very good review, very balanced.

    Scarlet is *much* better, as he has quite an attitude, and Stephen Lawhead turns around the old “conversion” thing, as Scarlet tries to convert the monk who’s writing down his story.

    I haven’t read Tuck yet, but we’ll get it in the next few months.

    My daughter is writing her own Robin Hood series, but she has a totally different take: She puts Robin Hood in BC Britain, and she bases this on her own serious research into the ballads of Robin Hood, both in Old English as well as the different Gaelic languages.

    I’m going to bookmark your blog here!


  3. Robert — As mentioned in my review, I did think Hood ended well-enough to not turn me off from reading Scarlet. I may try Scarlet in the future, per your suggestion. Best of luck to your daughter in her writing. It’s the first I’ve heard of Robin Hood existing in BC Britain. Interesting and original. I’ve read snippets from a few of the old ballads, but I haven’t studied it in depth. Thanks for bookmarking my blog! I hope you’ll come back and comment often.

  4. Stevent,
    I like your review on this book. I personally like reading about historical figures outside of their normal setting. I may see if my local library has this book.

    So what, so far is your favorite historical novel?

  5. Sari, I’d have to say my favorite historical fiction novel(s) are either the Saxon series or the Grail Quest series by Bernard Cornwell. I also really liked Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. What about yourself?

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