Review: Tuck

Reviewed by Superwench83.

Blurb:

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.

Preview chapter and purchase links

13 thoughts on “Review: Tuck”

  1. I’ve read a lot of books by Stephen Lawhead. I really enjoyed the first three novels in the PENDRAGON CYCLE, especially the first book, TALIESIN, which dealt with the fall of Atlantis. The last book, GRAIL, was very difficult for me to finish. Someone wrote on one of my comments once that it is difficult to end the Arthur story well because face it — it doesn’t end well.

    Are there future books planned in this series?

  2. Very true about the Arthur story. I did enjoy Mary Stewart’s (or is it Stuart’s?) The Crystal Cave and her other Merlin books, though. But it’s been almost fifteen years since I read them, so I can’t remember how the series ends.

    To the best of my knowledge, there aren’t any future books planned in the King Raven series. Tuck pretty well wraps up every aspect of the tale, even using the epilogue to speculate on how the Robin Hood story came to be associated with places other than Wales, where he believes it acutally originated.

    1. Interesting. When I took medieval French in college, we read a version of the Robin Hood story (the Robin in it was kind of a goof!), so I always assumed the story was originally French. But maybe the French took it from the Welsh like they did with the Arthurian cycle.

      1. Well, the series is set at the time of the Norman intrusion into Wales, when Norman barons and nobles were given control over parts of the country. I imagine that the French-speaking Normans took the story back to France with them. That’s my guess.

    1. Oh, I would definitely recommend that you check it out. I mean, I wasn’t very impressed with Tuck, but the series as a whole is pretty decent. The second book, Scarlet, is fantastic. It’s my favorite of the three.

    2. See how negative reviews can still sell books? I see this all the time. In fact, I’ve purchased books because of negative reviews before. I find it fascinating.

  3. I was wondering about this series for a long time. I have to say that negative reviews work for me too and I bought a few books based on negative reviews. After all you can’t make an own opinion without information 🙂
    I think I still give this series a shot when I’ll get a chance to buy copies of its books.

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