Review: Hood by Stephen Lawhead

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Title: Hood

Author: Stephen Lawhead

Publishing Information: September 1, 2006

Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Adventure, Adult, Retellings

Series information: Book 1 in the King Raven Series

Format: Hardcover, 490 pages

Source: Purchased for my personal library

Recommended For: Fans of historical fiction and those looking for a new take on an old tale.

The Legend Begins Anew

For centuries, the legend of Robin Hood and his band of thieves has captivated the imagination. Now the familiar tale takes on new life, fresh meaning, and an unexpected setting.

Hood is a novel that I have been meaning to read for a very long time. In fact, I attempted to read it quite a few years ago and despite my love of Robin Hood, I just couldn’t become immersed in the story. Being that I have owned the novel for years, the Classics Retold project seemed like the perfect excuse for me to give it another try.

Rhi Bran’s (see what he did there, Rhi Bran = Robin) father is killed and he is left as the would-be heir to his father’s castle and lands. Unfortunately Bran is injured severely by Normans and he is found near death by a mysterious old woman. After many trials she succeeds in nursing him back to health and assisting him in realizing his truth worth as a leader to his people.

I did enjoy the characters for the most part, Bran was pigheaded and a rather different type of hero. It was interesting to watch his growth throughout the novel and I thoroughly enjoyed his characterization of King Raven. The two most descriptive secondary characters in Hood are Merian, and Friar Tuck, who goes by the name Aethelfrith. I did not like the portrayal of Merian, I found her to be somewhat silly in her dual nature. On one hand she was strong headed and stubborn, but then she seemed rather silly and naïve in her actions. Tuck, however, was incredibly loveable. He assisted Bran in keeping a cool head in many situations and was incredibly keen and fun to read.

Hood is a very different retelling than the original tale of Robin Hood, and it reads more like a historical fiction novel than anything else. Lawhead in no way romanticizes Robin Hood’s tale, in fact it is a darker retelling than I have ever read and to be honest there is not much happiness through the novel, despite the fact that things do move forward little by little for our hero.

While reading, I wasn’t completely enthralled with the tale, and I had hoped for some more action. Much of the story is Bran finding his potential, and background on the different Barons who are fighting for control of the land. There was one particular scene that took place in the “haunted forest” that I thoroughly enjoyed, the atmosphere was absolutely chilling. It is obvious while reading that this is only one part to the Robin Hood tale and it is hard to judge the novel on its own as it really is a piece to a much bigger puzzle. That said, as a whole I found the novel to be an interesting new beginning to the Robin Hood legend, I will definitely be continuing on with the story.

8 thoughts on “Review: Hood by Stephen Lawhead

  1. I thought “Hood” was done well enough, though I wouldn’t say it ranks among my favorite Robin Hood retellings. It’s sequel, “Scarlet”, pleased me somewhat more (the eponymous Scarlet’s narrative voice was quite likable. I hope I’ll get around to purchasing it, one of these days). I have yet to lay hands on the third in the series, “Tuck”; I await your input on whether it may be worth my time. (:

    • This is only one of two retellings that I have read, though I am working on Outlaws of Sherwood currently..I liked Bran a lot but I think that the rest of the series must be much better without so much background!

    Aaaaannnyway, it’s always a little bit sad when a book that you’ve been anticipating, about something that you love, and to which you finally devote a good deal of time falls just a little short.
    I’ve always loved Friar Tuck, so it makes me happy that you loved him here. It’s frustrating, though, that Merian is so wishy-washy in her character. 😦 That creepy forest scene sounds pretty legit, though!

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  4. I’ve been looking forward to reading your take on this one because after falling in love with Scarlet I went and put all the Robin Hood books on my radar. Needless to say, I may skip this one. It seems ‘fine’, but a little underwhelming? Are you going to be talking Lady of the Forest? I KNOW I need to read that one, I devoured tons of Jennifer Robinson as a teen.

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