Author: Stephen R. Lawhead
Rating: 5 out of 5 arrows
One of the most fun aspects of legends is that the details get fuzzy over time. Names get lost and details get embellished. What remains is the moral of the legend, and the enjoyment of hearing the tale. In Stephen R. Lawhead's novel, Hood, we are treated to one rendition of the legend of Robin Hood. If you are looking for King Richard, Prince John, and the Sherriff of Nottingham, look elsewhere. Hood is set in the nation of Cymru (now called Wales) during the Norman invasion of the early 1000's.
In fact, Hood does not resemble the common legend at all until the last 100 or so pages. Most of this novel serves to set up the locations, characters, and events that lead to "Robin Hood"s (Bran ap Brychan, in this novel) exile and criminal deeds. If one considers this as a standalone novel, they may be disappointed with the result. Hood contains a beginning and middle, but then seems to abruptly stop. This reader thought that it could have used an additional 300-400 pages. However, we need to remember that Hood is part of a trilogy, and I am perfectly content with forgiving Lawhead for his early truncation because the "introductory" material presented in Hood is just so enjoyable.
Hood is filled with beautiful landscapes and complex characters. Bran himself is not the loveable rogue that legend has remembered, but a conflicted and - in some cases - failing hero. This makes the metamorphosis he undergoes throughout the book that much more satisfying.
The pacing of this novel (one of the biggest potential stumbling points of a novel, in this reader's opinion), is spot on. So much so that I didn't even realize the pages were turning and the chapters were advancing. The story just seemed to organically flow from the author's mind to my own, which seemed to harken back to the days when legends were passed on verbally.
Hood has been one of the most enjoyable novels that I have read in a long time. Do yourself a favor: Pick up the trilogy, find a comfortable spot, and read to your heart's content.
5 out of 5 arrows!