233. Hood (King Raven #1) by Stephen R. Lawhead
Publication: Thomas Nelson (June 5, 2007), Paperback, 472pp / ISBN 9781595540881
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Read: November 19, 2009
I got this a few months ago when BookCloseouts was having a big scratch-and-dent sale. It looked interesting, and I don’t think I’ve read anything Robin Hood-related since the last time I read The Once and Future King. But that whole thing in the woods with Robin and his merry men made me want to puke with the mushiness hippie-ness of it all, so I was excited to read something that took a more realistic approach.
As a whole, I don’t think it was an utter waste of my time. I enjoyed most of it, and even though some parts really annoyed me, they didn’t annoy me enough to stop reading it. However, looking back I had a lot more problems with it than I had, uh, non-problems, and that’s why I don’t think I’ll be reading the next two books in the series.
Summary from Amazon:
For centuries, the legend of Robin Hood and his band of thieves has captivated the imagination. Now the familiar tale takes on new life, fresh meaning, and an unexpected setting.
Steeped in Celtic mythology and the political intrigue of medieval Britain, Stephen R. Lawhead’s latest work conjures up an ancient past and holds a mirror to contemporary realities. Prepare yourself for an epic tale that dares to shatter everything you thought you knew about Robin Hood.
It starts off with extremely high action, which is probably why I kept reading it through to the end– the action sequences are very action-y, and I needed a bit of an adrenaline kick after my last book. The middle is more slow but it’s building back up the tension and by the end it’s really exciting again.
So, the best part of the book: the fight sequences.
I also like the whole reboot. Robin Hood in Wales? Cool! I like Wales. I also liked that it had a paranormal/fantasy kind of tint to it; at first I thought it was weird, but then I figured it was like King Arthur or something and then it really worked for me. But then came the problems.
The characters were flat. It was interesting to see how Mr Lawhead changed them from the original versions, especially Robin/Bran, who’s more selfish and lazy and a bit of a player at the beginning. He changes by the end, though he’s still a bit of a coward. But I liked seeing him evolve through the story.
However, the rest of the characters were either bland or so all over the place with their emotions they turned into jesters. It wasn’t unusual for someone to be REALLY FREAKING ANGRY and then two sentences later they’re calm and calculating. Not just one dude, by the way, but almost all the dudes entirely. And not either of those emotions were convincing; it was like watching Plan 9 From Outer Space set in the middle ages. Merian and Bran definitely had the worst conversations: they were utterly unconvincing and Merian turned into a standard fake-strong female heroine trope instead of staying the most convincingly real person in the whole cast. Disappointing.
The writing was, as I said last Thursday, trying too hard to be clever. I said that when it tried to be clever instead of being enjoyable like an in-joke it came off more like “you’re too stupid to figure it out so I’ll explain because I’m so smart” kind of thing. Really annoying, though it didn’t happen too many times. And the writing wasn’t overly horrible, it just wasn’t up to par with things like The Winter King.
The plot itself wasn’t bad. It was pretty good, actually! And like I said, I like the whole reboot-a-myth thing. But the writing and the characters just dragged it down, and the fight sequences weren’t enough to lift it back up. I’m sort of torn, though. I liked it, kinda. And I for sure didn’t hate it. But I feel sort of wishy-washy about it. Ambivalent! That’s what I mean. I’m ambivalent.
If you think you’d like reading a Robin Hood story in a new setting with slightly changed characters and plot, then you might like this. But– I’d get it from the library just in case you don’t.