Hood: Book One of the Raven Trilogy

Written by Stephen Lawhead
Review by Bethany Skaggs

Lawhead’s take on the Robin Hood legend is original, engaging, and unorthodox, for this Robin Hood isn’t an Englishman in Sherwood Forest — he’s a Welsh freedom fighter.

King Brychan and his warband are murdered by the devious Norman, Baron de Braose, who then crushes Elfael beneath his harsh rule. Brychan’s son, Bran, sets off with the enormous warrior Iwan (“John” in English) and the English Friar Aethelfrith (nicknamed “Tuck” due to his physique), to seek redress from Red William, King of England. Informed by William’s justiciar that he can buy back Elfael for the enormous sum of 600 marks, Bran returns home to retrieve the money but is seriously wounded by the baron’s knights, who leave him for dead. Among those who mourn his supposed death is Mérian, daughter to the king of a neighboring cantref. Taking refuge in the Welsh forest with others who have fled the Normans, Bran slowly comes to the realization that he is the only hope for his people. From his forest stronghold, Bran (meaning “Raven” in Welsh) utilizes the Welsh longbow and psychology, dressing up as a horrifying raven-like beast when his band raids the Normans. Soon rumors abound of the forest demon Rhi Bran the Hud (“King Raven the Enchanter”), which the French-speaking Normans phoneticize to Robin Hood.

This is a new twist on a very old story, and Lawhead’s combination of the familiar with the new makes for a refreshing read. There is also an interesting afterword about the origins of the myth and the various forms it takes, and Lawhead proffers a plausible case for the legend actually having Welsh origins. Though the “real” Robin Hood will probably forever remain a mystery, with this rollicking tale, Lawhead offers a new variation that will leave readers gnawing at the bit to read the next offering in the trilogy.