Hood by Stephen Lawhead (Book Review) ~ BitterSweetLife

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hood by Stephen Lawhead (Book Review)

A guest post by Peter

When my older brother mentioned a Stephen Lawhead trilogy about Robin Hood, I showed a little interest, but didn’t really think about it much. If I had time, I mused, I would check it out from the library. However, Arie had plans for me/it. Given the opportunity/problem of reading and reviewing Hood for his blog, I decided I would undertake it and conquer. Three weeks later, I’m finally buckling down and getting it over with.

Reading the book was no problem. It’s well-written, typical of a Lawhead novel, with delightful descriptions of a 13th century Britain still populated by the remnants of the Cymry, the fierce Welshmen who were the main characters in many of Lawhead’s previous books. The Cymry are not free to live as they choose now, however; they have been forced to live under the thumb of a certain Red William, King of England.

The author paints a picture of beautiful valleys and dark forest, populated by mostly peaceful peasants and farmers. When Lawhead incorporates his new plot ideas, they work, for the most part making sense and not seeming implausible as an addition the familiar story of Robin that we all know. He subtly changes Hood’s background, making him a displaced prince who nurtures a hate for the English who have forced him into hiding in the forest, and nearly took his life. We also meet the last bard of Britain, and see Robin not dressed in green toting a bow and playfully bounding through the forest: Hood’s attacks are planned and executed flawlessly, incorporating fear of a phantom as well.

We also see Hood’s bitterness against God, not blindly accepting God’s plan that had ruined his home and people. Instead he almost blames it on God, taking out the resentment on the people that perpetrated the crime.

In short, Hood is an interesting blend of old-time Arthur stories and Robin Hood adventures. The Robin Hood we see in this new hybrid version is not playful and happy, but vindictive and calculating. It’s worth your time to peruse this new version of an old story. It’s become a novel that’s no longer a children’s story; instead it has been made into a tale of blood, revenge, and bitterness. Not only these characteristics make up Hood; we also see him pursuing Mérian (yes, she’s still part of the story) and loving his countrymen. However, he’s become a much more human hero.

Grade: ** I’ll give Hood two stars--well worth your time--and (am I licensed for this?) a spot on THE LIST. This book is interesting and intriguing. (Yes, that’s redundant, but "intriguing" is too good of a word to leave out.)

[Peter Vanderhorst is a rakish high school student living in Lenexa, Kansas. When he's not hanging with friends or making outrageous claims about his ping pong abilities, he can be found reading voraciously, downloading new music, or finding additional news sources for his Kansas basketball fix.]

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