Monday, November 26, 2007

Book Review: Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead

On our non-kids weekend last weekend, I was able to sit and read the book Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead. I've been a fan of Lawhead for about 16 or 17 years now, from his Song of Albion series.

Scarlet is the second book in a trilogy called the Raven King based on the Robin Hood legend. However, there are a couple of significant differences. 1) The historical setting has changed from the time of King Richard Coeur de Leon (The Lion-Hearted) to the time just after the Norman invasion of England, 1080-1100. This is not the first Robin Hood book that I've read that did this. Sherwood by Parke Godwin did this as well and pretty well too. 2) Lawhead also changes the setting from Nottingham to Wales. Lawhead is well known for his love of most things Celtic and so this fits well into his story.

Lawhead also employs one of his other literary trademarks, which is a limited first person perspective (not to go all English teacher on y'all). The first book, Hood, was told from Bran's perspective (Bran is Rhi Bran y Hud or the Raven King AKA Robin Hood), with occasionally jaunts into the Norman/French halls of power to see the political machinations behind the choices that kill his father and force him to live as a brigand woodsman. Scarlet does something similar, which serves to introduce the readers anew to Bran and his group, while also giving the perspective of how a member of his own group of woodsmen see him. I won't say much about the plot, but it's basically Bran and his groups involvement in their wood trade, but how that also intersects with the political and religious plots of the day, of which there were many.

I really really enjoyed it and if you're a fan of the Robin Hood legend, I'd recommend both this series, as well as Sherwood. What's interesting to me about all of this is that for close to 700 years Robin Hood has been such an archetype that he's constantly being re-visioned in books and movies and tv shows. I wonder if the struggle against unjust oppressors or the re-distribution of wealth or living in the woods off the land or any of those other pieces of the legend are what keeps it going for so many years.

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