Hood by Stephan Lawhead
Genre – Historical fiction, Legend, Retelling
Series – 1st in the King Raven Trilogy
Rating – PG -13 for battles, violence and innuendo
Bran ap Brychan is royalty. The sole heir to the land of Elfael, a small kingdom in Wales. More then anything, Bran wishes to remain free from the burden of kingship. He’d prefer to spend his days wooing Marian. Elfael although small, is the first line of defense for the Welsh people against the Norman invasion. Many of the leading Lords have given up the fight including Marian’s father, Lord Cadwgan, who has joined forces with the Norman Baron Neufmarche. After his father’s death, Bran faces a choice: stand and fight for his people or flee to the north. But whom can he trust?
My Thoughts –
To start, I love legends, especially medieval ones like Robin Hood or King Arthur. Something about them sparks my imagination and makes me wish I could join them in their quests. I’ve mentioned my fondness for the Arthurian legend before and reviewed several different versions. I read Hood many years ago and had forgotten most of the plot. Upon finding it at a local bookstore, I eagerly bought it to reread.
Lawhead does an interesting thing with this particular legend and takes it completely out of Sherwood Forest. Instead, he places Robin in Wales. It works really well!! It gives Bran a reason to fight against the Normans or Ffreinc as they are called. He keeps some of the famous characters like Little John or Friar Tuck, but changes them up a little.
Bran goes on quite the journey. At the start, he is a stuck up prince who gets everything he wants to becoming the leader of his abandoned people. I like Bran for the most part. His character reminds me a lot of the BBC’s version of Robin Hood. Angharad the bard is an intriguing character to say the least. She is a believer in the one true God who uses her knowledge to awake Bran’s heart. I also like Tuck aka Brother Ffreol. Merian’s character is a little weak to me, but maybe that’s just cause it’s the first book.
The plot moves slowly at first, taking it time to build this medieval world around us. There is quite a bit of politics woven throughout which can be confusing at times. There are so many Barons with similar names, it’s tricky keeping them all straight. Despite all this, the end picks up a bit as we see things start to come together. Just be patient!
The setting is beautiful. We have the rolling hill country of Elfael with farmers and crops. Then we get the marsh and the forest Coed Cadw. It’s very picturesque and makes me want to visit Wales.
Since this is medieval Britain there are Bishops, Priests, and Friars. Some are in it for the money and portrayed as greedy. Others like Brother Ffreol & Bishop Asaph seem devote. We see several characters pray throughout or mention God. Although its a bit murky where they actually sit in their faith.
Language – There is occasional uses of mild language. Not much though.
Violence – In the first few chapters we have a battle in which many of Bran’s countrymen are killed. It is described as covering the fields with blood. We see corpses. Several characters are seriously injured by arrows or stabbed. Later Baron de Brose tries to hunt and kill Bran. Bran eventually fights back by stealing animals & leaving the entrails to frighten the Ffreinc soldiers. He hangs dead mice and other small animals from trees as well.
Innuendo – Bran flirts with Marian and kisses her, hoping for more. But it is made clear that he has not done it yet. Merian ends up pushing Bran away and doesn’t really seem interested in him. Later, Baron Neufmarche takes a shine to Merian, despite being married.
Lawhead takes an interesting spin on the legend of Robin Hood. I remember loving these books years ago and am glad I got a chance to visit Hood again! I remember the other two books only vaguely. If you enjoy legends, I would highly recommend this one! While having a slower pace, Hood takes you back to time of knights and swords.
Up next – I’ll be reading Mawson’s Will – The Greatest Polar Survival Story Ever Written by Lennard Bickel.
Do you enjoy legends? How about Robin Hood? What have you been reading lately?
Cannot wait to hear your thoughts!!