Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hood - Stephen R Lawhead

Stephen R Lawhead's Hood (Atom, August 2006) is the first in the King Raven trilogy.

The Norman conquest of England is more or less complete, but for one young Welshman the battle is only just beginning. When the father of Bran ap Brychan is murdered by Norman soldiers, he rides to London to seeking justice from King William the Red. The journey is long and hard, and the suffering of the British people whom he sees on the way fuels his anger. When Bran's demands are dismissed by the King's Cardinal and he is told he will have to buy back his father's Welsh kingdom, Bran has no choice but to return home, but an even worse fate awaits him there, when Bran and his 3 companions are arrested by the detested Normans and one companion is murdered. Bran is taken to Count de Braose and offers to ransom himself, but before he can do so, he is tracked into the forest and attacked whilst trying to flee for his life. He is very badly injured and believed to be dead, but appearances can be deceiving as the Normans will find out... And who is the Raven King ? A creature of myth and magic born of the darkest shadows in the forest ? Or a living being ?

I confess this book took me nearly 3 days to read because Lawhead's characters did not interest me until I was nearly half way through the book - which is rather depressing, especially from a long-established author. I also struggled for some time with my annoyance at the fact that Lawhead has seen fit to relocate the Robin Hood legend to Wales; he explains his reasoning in a note at the back of the book and whilst I can see where his argument is coming from, I was still annoyed that an English legend had been appropriated to the Welsh when they've lots of legends of their own ! And I'm not even a patriot or a nationalist - it's just that Robin Hood has always been English as far as I've been taught since childhood. In fact, what Lawhead has done was interesting once I was able to sympathise with the characters, and I will read the sequels to this book - but I still struggled with both Lawhead's premise and with the less-than-charming main characters ! If I was to give this book a points rating (which I never do as a rule), I'd have to say 6 out of 10, could have done much better !

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