The KingRaven Series is exciting, profound and life changing. it hearkens back to the day when true chivalry existed and makes one long for its return. The books wisk you away from earthy and gritty daily life and transport you back to a time of beauty, faithfulness and dogged determination for true justice.
Lawhead has always been one of the great storytellers. This threesome is very, very good. What a new, and I think better, way to tell this story. And now Crowe is in a movie that looks similar to these tales. Wonderful.
Review of Tuck
This was the best book of the trilogy, hands down. Friar Tuck has always been one of my favorite characters in the Robin Hood stories - but he was almost replaced by a new character introduced in Tuck - that of Alan a'Dale. Lawhead did a beautiful job of writing this character and I found myself searching for as much of him as I possibly could throughout the story.
Everything must come to an end, and a satisfying end this was. I loved Tuck's role in the resolution (even though it did seem a bit far-fetched) but even more I loved Lawhead's explanation of where the inspiration came from.
I haven't spoken about this on the other two books, but each of these books Lawhead gives a short 5-6 page history lesson on some of the more fantastic things we, the readers, have read about in each book. Tuck was no exception - and if anything has me already researching books to read that will give me more knowledge on the battles Lawhead described.
A worthy trilogy and a fine introduction to Lawhead. My only complaint is the pace can move a bit slowly - and I'm hoping that is something that doesn't happen in his other series as well.
This is the third and final part in "The RavenKing" trilogy, begun with Stephen Lawhead's Hood and continued in Scarlet. After publication was delayed for a period of time due to illness, "Tuck" finally concludes the story in a satisfactorily, though perhaps slightly anti-climactically, way. The key concept behind this particular version of Robin Hood is that it proposes to be the "real" story behind the legends, based on events that originated in Wales and which went on to inspire the later bards and minstrels.
Lawhead chooses to transport the traditionally English tale to Wales based on several factors: that country's dense forests, the Welsh skill with longbows, and the historical difficulties that the Normans had in conquering territories in eleventh century Wales due to the guerilla tactics that were used to repel invaders. Wales in circa 1093 (the time period in which this trilogy is set) was a breeding ground for stories that could have eventually grown into the Robin Hood legends as we know it today.
This particular retelling of Robin Hood has Rhi Bran y Hud as the titular character, a Prince of Wales who is driven from his home after Norman invaders kill his father and seize control over his lands. Taking to the woods, Bran embraces his role as a leader to the families that have sought sanctuary in the wild, and he becomes known as "the Raven King" to the people known as the Grellon or "the flock". Joined by his old friend Iwan (Little John), new friend Will Scathelock (or Scarlett), close acquaintance Friar Aethelfrith (Tuck) and his long-time love Merian (no translation needed), Bran uses scare tactics to terrorize and raid Norman convoys and settlements.
After thwarting a plot to overthrow King William Rufus, the outlaws return home in disappointment after the king refuses to return Bran to his rightful place on the throne. Though Rufus has exiled the greedy Baron de Braose and his nephew Count Falkes, the Welsh still have to deal with the sadistic Sheriff de Granville, the corrupt Abbott Hugo de Rainult and their lackey Guy of Gysborne. Although the story is told in first-person narrative (moving away from Scarlett's confessional account of events in the second book) and drifts between several characters' points of view, much of the focus falls upon Tuck, the self-described: "poor, humble mendicant whom God has seen fit to bless with a stooped back, a face that frightens young `uns, and knees that have never had fellowship with the other."
Much like the trilogy itself, "Tuck" is divided into three distinct parts: the outlaws' rescue of a potential ally, the ousting of the Ffreinc from Bran's ancestral home, and the final gathering of two armies in order to fight for the freedom of Elfael. As such, the story feels a little choppy, especially when certain plotlines don't tie together particularly well. Although the lengthy first act involves Bran and his men undergoing a clever but dangerous mission in order to rescue King Gruffydd, the eventual pay-off isn't particularly rewarding. Likewise, Merian (still rather bland) has a short subplot in which she returns to her brother in order to muster his soldiers, only to be taken under house arrest by her family. Although she argues the cause of Bran and the Welsh with passion, her brother and Bran's allies eventually come to a decision that they would have reached with or without Merian's insistence. Likewise the conniving character of Baron Bernard de Neufmarche fizzles out a little bit to the point where I'm not entirely sure why he was necessary at all. The man who was shaping up to be the main antagonist of the series ends up as a minor background character.
As the title would indicate, it is naturally Tuck who keeps the disparate bits of the narrative together. Tuck is often the overlooked character in the legends; often used as comic relief or po-faced pontificating, but here he is warm and kind-hearted, wise and intelligent, witty and pious, and overseeing both the physical and spiritual needs of his little flock. In short, this is one of the best and most humanized Tucks I've ever come across. In various incarnations of this character, Tuck never quite seems a "follower" of Robin in the same sense that Little John, Will Scarlett, Much and even Marian are. Though he's a natural ally to Robin and an active part of the gang, he often comes across as a bit of an outsider, and it's perhaps because of his affiliations with the church that he never takes on true "outlaw" status.
That same idea is at work here; although Tuck is obviously loyal to Bran and happy to take his commands, there's also the sense that he answers to a higher power that transcends both sides of the conflict. His course is usually to encourage peace talks, and in fact this makes up the most crucial part of his role to play in this particular installment.
As the other characters go, Bran has come into his own and fully embraced his role as leader to the people, weighing up his victories and defeats and making the difficult decisions in order to protect what he holds dear. It is a bit odd however that so much of the narrative is somewhat distanced from his point of view, particularly considering how prominent he was at the beginning of the trilogy. I wonder if perhaps it would have been more effective if the first book had been called "Tuck", with the good friar setting Bran on the path to manhood and maturity, and this, the final book, being told from Bran's point of view in order to explore how much he's really grown.
Little John and Will Scarlett are fairly low-key here, and although Merian is more prominent, she and her relationship with Bran is still rather one-note. Alan a'Dale is introduced here as a vagabond and minstrel, and given the appropriate role of translator between the many dialects that existed in Wales at this time (furthermore, an epilogue explores his role in adapting the story into the legends as we know them today). Much never makes an appearance, and rest of the cast are a variety of original characters that help join in the conflict for the freedom of their homeland, but who suffer legitimate loss in the struggle.
Heading several of the chapters are the verses to a ballad that one day turns the events recorded here into legend, as well as an informative author's note that explains several of the concepts and historical ideals used in the narrative.
For what looks like such a large book, the pace is extraordinary quick and flits from scene to scene without any excess dross. Lawhead has a good handle on the distribution of dialogue, setting, characterization, historical context and plot, and never wastes any words when it comes to getting across the pertinent aspects of the story he's trying to tell. All in all, this has been an enjoyable adaptation of the familiar story, both predictable (not that that's necessarily a bad thing) and with plenty of clever and unforeseen twists. Focusing on a character that is so often given short-shrift (in the latest BBC series, Tuck wasn't even included until the third season) this is a warm and memorable portrayal of one of the most iconic and familiar characters in European legend.
A good read, with strong spiritual and moral themes
It took me awhile to warm up to Tuck. I think part of it was coming into the story on the third book of a trilogy, having to get oriented as the tale of Rhi Bran and his band of outlaws was building to a climax.
The Robin Hood legend is familiar and comfortable for most of us, I think, but Lawhead throws it akilter by setting it in an historical Wales with a Robin who's more than just a dashing re-distributor of wealth. He's a dispossessed prince, a man who should be king, and he's carrying a load of emotional baggage, not the least of which is the death of his parents at the hands of Norman raiders.
Great, I thought. A brooding, orphaned aristocrat who runs around in the dark fighting evildoers, wearing a scary costume. Bruce Wayne in the year 1000. I wasn't liking him much at the beginning.
Fortunately, I kept reading, mostly because of Friar Tuck. He's an unlikely hero--short, round, bowlegged, and not particularly handsome. We experience most of the story from his point of view. Far from the jolly, insubstantial pseudo-priest of the cinema, Tuck is a man of deep faith and simple convictions. He's equally at home offering blessings to poor families and breaking the heads of enemies foolish enough to underestimate him. He is at turns brilliantly insightful and childishly naive. He wants nothing more than to live at peace, tending a little flock of country parishioners, but his conviction of the rightness of Bran's cause leads him perpetually into danger, a situation he accepts with weary patience and good nature. It helped my understanding and appreciation of Bran when I began to see him through Tuck's eyes.
Tuck has faith that God will bring Bran and his followers safely through their war against impossible odds and grant them victory. His faith is ultimately vindicated-victory is secured not primarily through force of arms, or shrewd alliances, but through a change of heart. The peacemakers don't have an easy time of it in this story, but in the end, they are clearly proven right, and blessed. It's a powerful message.
This is a character-driven story. Lawhead doesn't spin a lot of purple prose in blow-by-blow analysis of battles or breathtaking travelogues of the Welsh countryside, though there are some nice action scenes and enough imagery to provide a decent mental anchor for medieval Wales. We watch Rhi Bran's transformation from a bandit leader to a worthy king, with the help of wise advisors and loyal friends. Lawhead also shines a welcome spotlight on some of the supporting players who don't get a lot of press, like Will Scarlett and Alan a Dale, as well as a few we've not met before. I was particularly intrigued by Angharad, the shaman/wisewoman who is Bran's principal advisor and mentor. It's unclear whether she is a converted Druid or someone who has discovered the one true God via His witness revealed in nature, but she illustrates the fact that despite its embrace of Christianity, Britain was at this time only recently emerged from paganism, and the memories and influence of the old ways were still strong. Even Tuck defers to her authority at times.
Tuck is a good read, with strong spiritual and moral themes. I enjoyed it, and probably would have enjoyed it more had I read the other two volumes of the trilogy first. I'll probably go back for them at some point, but Tuck actually left me more eager to check out Patrick, Lawhead's novel about the Irish saint.
"""Pray God our aim is true and each arrow finds its mark."" KingRaven has brought hope to the oppressed people of Wales--and fear to their Norman overlords. Along the way Friar Tuck has been the stalwart supporter of King Raven--bringing him much-needed guidance, wit, and faithful companionship. Deceived by the self-serving King William and hunted by the treacherous Abbot Hugo and Sheriff de Glanville, Rhi Bran is forced to take matters into his own hands as King Raven. Aided by Tuck and his small but determined band of forest-dwelling outlaws, he ignites a rebellion that spreads through the Welsh valleys, forcing the wily monarch to marshal his army and march against little Elfael. Filled with unforgettable characters, breathtaking suspense, and rousing battle scenes, Stephen R. Lawhead's masterful retelling of the Robin Hood legend reaches its stunning conclusion in Tuck. Steeped in Celtic mythology and the political intrigue of medieval Britain, Lawhead's trilogy conjures up an ancient past while holding a mirror to contemporary realities. Prepare for an epic tale that dares to shatter everything you thought you knew about Robin Hood."