Book: Hood

Title: Hood: The King Raven Trilogy (Book 1)
Author: Stephen R. Lawhead
Genre: Fiction
Length: 472 pgs

Summary: Rhi Bran ap Brychan, heir to the Elfael throne, has never been much for responsibility. Not since his mother died when he was a young boy. Bran is headstrong, selfish, and egotistical; rebellious against his callous and and tyrannous father. But now his father is dead–killed by Norman invaders determined to take over the Welsh and their lands. The people of Elfael have been enslaved, made to pay taxes they have not the money for, forced to work lands that are not their own and thus making it impossible to tend to the year’s harvest: the people of Elfael are starving, and they need a leader. Unfortunatly for Bran, he is their last hope.

Excerpts:
pg 59 – So far as Bran could ell, to reign was merely to invite a perpetual round of frustration and aggravation that lasted from the moment one took the crown until it was laid aside. Only a power-crazed thug like his father would solicit such travail. Any way he looked at it, sovreignty exacted a heavy price, which Bran had seen firsthand and which, now that it came to it, he found himself unwilling to pay.

pg 60 – “Pay tribute to the very brutes that would plunder us if we didn’t,” growled Bran. “That stinks to high heaven.”
“Does it stink worse than death?” asked Iwan. Bran, shamed by the taunt, merely glared.
“It is unjust,” granted Ffreol, trying to soothe, “but that is ever the way of things.”

pg 123 – Bran, working with uncanny calm, placed another arrow on the string, took his time to pull, hold, and aim. When he let fly, the missle sang to its mark. The first warrior was struck and spun completely around by the force of the arrow. The second ran on a few more steps, then halted abruptly, jerked to his full height by the slender oak shaft that slammed into his chest.

pg 138 – Shocked, horrified, mournful, and leaden with sorrow, Merian moved through the first awful day feeling as if the ground she trod was no longer solid beneath her feet–as if the very earth was fragile, delicate, and thin as the shell of a robin’s egg, and as if any moment the crust on which she stood might shatter and she would instantly plunge from the world of light and air into the utter, perpetual, suffocating darkness of the tomb. […] Anyone observing Merian might have thought her distracted or concerned. Knowing that nothing good could come of any overt distplay of emotion where Bran was concerned, she wallowed her grief and behaved as if the news of Bran’s death was a thing of negligible significance amidst the more troubling news of the murder of Brychan ap Tewdwr and all his warband and the unwarranted Ffreinc advance into neighboring Elfael.

Why should you read this book?
For one thing, it’s the story of Robin Hood set in Wales. Rather than the Saxons fighting the Normans, it is the Welsh, who already have fought with the invading Saxons and come to a grudging level of symbiosis, who now fight against the encroaching and greedy Norman-Ffreinc. Welsh stories tend to fascinate me, if only because they haven’t had much play time in the fiction world, at least by my understanding. However, in the last couple of years I’ve read some excellent books about the Welsh, such as Nectar from a Stone by Jane Guill.

This book, while well-written, could have used some editing in the length, I think. The character development is thorough, and for that reason alone you should read this book. The setting description is vivid and doesn’t take away from the pacing of the narrative. Yet, there were parts that dragged and had me wondering when I was going to read a portion that more closely resembled something of the traditional Robin Hood legend. So, if you’re thinking of reading this book, don’t start it with the Kevin Costner or Errol Flynn versions in mind. This Hood, Bran, is conflicted. He doesn’t want to be a hero; he actually spends most of the book trying to run away. An interesting new spin on the tales of Robin Hood, this book is the first in a trilogy, surprise surprise. The next one is called Scarlet, which I can only assume is a reference to Will Scarlet, Robin Hood’s second-most loyal companion, Little John being the first.