Reviewed by Superwench83.
The story of Rhi Bran y Hud concludes as Abbot Hugo and the Norman invaders attempt to wipe out King Raven and his flock once and for all. Their merciless attack, the first of many to come, heralds a dark and desperate day for the realm of Elfael. Bran and his few stalwarts desperately need encouragement and reinforcement if they are to survive. Bran and Friar Tuck, a most unconventional priest, ride north to rally the tribes of Wales to the fight, making new friends, and even more powerful enemies along the way. . . .
A Welsh Robin Hood? It sounds so strange after all that talk of Nottingham. Yet this is where Stephen R. Lawhead places his King Raven Trilogy, and a number of historical facts point to this being a possibility.
Hood and Scarlet were worthy tales, but this review is not for them (though in the past I discussed them briefly on my blog). Tuck, the final book in the King Raven Trilogy, sees us to the end of Rhi Bran y Hud’s quest to win his kingdom and his crown, and even goes as far as to speculate how the legend came to Nottingham.
Stephen R. Lawhead is a master of poetic prose. He also knows how to write chapter endings that hook you into diving right into the next page. Unfortunately…there’s something missing in this book. I can’t say I disliked it; indeed there were moments I really loved. But all in all, despite a lot of great things going on, I felt apathetic through about half of the book.
I think it was mostly a matter of characterization. Tuck, who is the main character of Tuck (surprise!) doesn’t seem to have any personal stakes. I mean, yes, if Bran’s quest fails, Tuck’s life could well be forfeit. But Tuck doesn’t seem troubled by this fact. He doesn’t dwell on it in dread, doesn’t have to force himself to push the thought away, doesn’t seem to have any dreams that will be shattered if he fails. Nor does he seem overly concerned about the people under oppressive rule. Not that he doesn’t care, but there’s no passion. He just seems to float along with the breeze, rarely proactive.
Another complaint I have is about the dialogue in the argument scenes—especially among the antagonists. It’s petty, silly dialogue…which might work if this were a different kind of novel, one that pokes fun of the villains and paints them as bumbling fools. But this is a serious novel, and the villains pose a serious threat. Their “He said this!” and “He started that!” dialogue seemed quite out of place.
As I said, though, there were moments I really enjoyed. The time Bran spent disguising himself before a pompous noble, as well as his flight away from that errand, were both playful and intense. More than any other scenes in the books, these captured the spirit of Robin Hood legends best, and I wish there had been more like them. I was also happy to see one of the series’ many villains show a few signs of redemption. And the ending was satisfactory, for both the book and the series. Not what I had expected, but a fitting end.
The appeal of this book—of the trilogy, in fact—lies in its unusual placement of the Robin Hood legend in a land and time it has never seen…or at least not for a thousand years. It’s a neat historical spin. I really liked Scarlet, the previous novel in the series, and wish Tuck had captured more of that spirit. All in all, Tuck wasn’t a bad book, but neither was it as strong as I had hoped it would be.