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Book Review: Hood by Stephen Lawhead

Yesterday I finished reading Hood, by Stephen Lawhead. A retelling of the Robin Hood story, it is set in Wales rather than in Nottingham. Lawhead contends that the original Robin Hood stories were in fact re-tellings (like King Arthur) of much older legends. I find that, given my own limited knowledge, that I agree. The themes of the story are universal and could have come from much older stories, much as many mythologies are perverted tellings of Biblical history.

The first book of the King Raven Trilogy, Hood is fast paced, interesting and creative. Rather than just retell the story in a new setting, Lawhead tweaks the plot enough that it is not wholly recognizable as Robin Hood. It is in fact, a new story, fresh and inventive. Although many character’s names are similar, they take on a fresh feel. Marian becomes Merien and Friar Tuck’s real Saxon name of Aethelfrith is revealed. Although this nod to the original story is obvious, it does not detract at all from the originality of Lawhead’s telling.

For those who don’t know, Lawhead is a professing Christian and writer of many books, including science fiction, Celtic based fantasies, and historical novels. His novel Byzantium is one of the most well-written and paced books I have ever read. Valerie once asked me which of my fantasy books, if I could only pick one, she should read. I told her that Byzantium was that one.

Also of interest is the fact that his more recent books get to have a soundtrack. Jeff Johnson and Brian Dunning have written a musical score to go with Hood. I own their album based on Byzantium and absolutely love it.

Hood is an excellent book. I know I say that often about books I review here, but this one is special. I can’t wait for the release of the rest of the trilogy.

Read my interview with Stephen Lawhead. And my review of Scarlet,
secon in the King Raven Trilogy.