Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Book Review: The King Raven Trilogy: Hood, Scarlet, & Tuck- by Stephen Lawhead

I allow myself an exception in my normal reading cycle to read a whole series instead of breaking it up over multiple rounds. My wife has been a Stephen Lawhead fan for many years and has tried many times to get me to read him. I had always come across a struggle to find all of the books in a series on audiobook before and so this made it difficult. Recently, however, my library has added many of his books to their digital collection and so I checked out the complete King Raven Trilogy and finally gave him a chance. This review is of all three books in the series. I am pretty certain that I remember which parts came from which book, but there might be spoilers.

I enjoyed Hood quite a bit, but it was very slow. Lawhead seemed to give a lot of details and spend a descent amount of time focused on the details of daily life as part of setting the scene. However, it was an enjoyable retelling of the Robin Hood story and certainly a believable take on it. He explained at the end a minor bit of evidence that caused him to change the traditional setting and the story does fit well into the time period and the politics. Having read the full Wikipedia article on it in 2012, about the time my wife was reading Tuck the origins of the story are murky enough to make this take plausible. It also seems that the Russell Crowe version of Robin Hood borrowed minor things from this book. Once (view spoiler) the story and pace really picked up. The psychological and guerrilla warfare was very gripping to read. Honestly, it would have been OK if it ended there, even if it didn't cover the full legend.
However, the story continued in Scarlet and took an odd turn from there. It went from being third-person [limited I seem to recall] to first-person and followed Will Scarlet instead of Bran. The story again drug at times and we seemed to miss action that would have been included had the perspective been more inclusive, if nothing else, I felt a stronger connection to Bran than the new character. My only guess is that in addition wanting to tell the story from another perspective it helped Lawhead drag the story out into a trilogy and made it easier to develop the plot by hiding much of it away from the reader in other people's minds. The book wasn't bad, but no where near as good at the first in the series.
The story continued and concluded with Tuck. I seem to recall that this story had a mix of first and third person points of view, but either was it was better than the second in the series. The plot moved along nicely and the secrecy and subterfuge was very entertaining. It lacked the epic battle scene that so many versions of the Robin Hood, especially movie versions, seem to build up to, but part of this telling's charm is the unique take on the story and the retelling of it.
My wife has argued to me that this is one of her least favorite Lawhead books, just above his sci-fi novels. I remember her encouraging me to read it when it came out, but still I'll take her word on it. If that is the case then his others will probably be good, but I cannot say that I loved it or that I am eager to return to him as an author. Personally, I enjoyed it more because of the original take on the legend than for the writing itself.

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