“Hood” by Stephen R. Lawhead (Thomas Nelson, 2006)

Hood
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There are a couple of “legends” in British history that many people worldwide know about: one of them is King Arthur and the other is Robin Hood.  Arthur has an entire bookshelf of history and fiction written about him, and many of those fiction books profess to be as accurate as the possible truth, even though it is still not fully known if there ever was such a living person.  As for Robin Hood, much of the same story and lore shrouds this figure, and yet the amount written about him is small in comparison.  There are many seminal works that are considered part of the “King Arthur Cannon,” such as Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, Chretien de Troyes romances, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon, Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles, and Jack Whyte’s Camulod Chronicles, to name a few.  In fact the author, Stephen R. Lawhead, has even written a series about Merlin and Arthur, known as his Pendragon Cycle.  There have been mediocre to poor TV shows about he who robs from the rich to feed the poor, but there has never really been an equivalent book series or trilogy about Robin Hood of a high caliber; until now.

Bran ap Brychan doesn’t really know if he ever wants to be king, but his father is a poor monarch who doesn’t treat his subjects of Elfael as well as he should perhaps, but then Bran doesn’t really know what he wants to be.  Then all that changes when a group of Normans invade the Welsh kingdom and his father is killed, making Bran the automatic heir.  Except the Normans seize the kingdom, awarding it to a bishop and care little for Bran and his supposed claim to this throne.  And so begins Bran’s adventure, as he brings together a band of merry men to go see King William and wrest back his kingdom.  Thwarted in London, he is told he can have his kingdom back for a ridiculously high amount of money.  So Bran sets about getting the money the only way he knows how: from those cursed Normans who stole his land, as well as making sure his people are treated right and well.

Stephen Lawhead presents the first of his impressive trilogy on Robin Hood in Hood, explaining his detailed research in the afterword, and pointing out the unlikelihood of this character living in the thirteenth century in Sherwood Forest and going against King John.  Lawhead posits Robin Hood living in the late eleventh century in the time of William the Conqueror and his overtaking of Britain with his Normans.  Bran is a Welshman, and the Normans cared little for this distant part of Britain, except when they wanted to make it their own.  It makes perfect sense that a man out of legend would rise up to help the people against those dastardly Normans.  Lawhead also pulls from Celtic mythology to seamlessly blend with the story.  Hood is a great and riveting work of historical fiction that will have any fan of the genre hooked and wanting to read more in the trilogy.

Originally written on March 12, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

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