hood“Oh, but the fiery blush of enthusiasm for his part in Bran’s grand scheme had faded to dull, muddy pessimism by the time Aethelfrith reached his little oratory on the Hereford road…’Tuck, old son,’ he murmured, ‘you’ve gone and put both feet in the brown pie this time.'” – p 398

Here we have yet another take on the legend of Robin Hood.  This time, with a decidedly different tone.  Steve Lawhead has taken Robin from his usual standing in Sherwood Forest, among Prince John and King Richard and the like, and moved him back in time and place to Wales.  Robin is named Robin no longer, but Bran ap Brychan, the rightful heir to the throne of a Welsh cantref (a small kingdom like a county) named Elfael.  His father is on the road to Lundein to grudgingly pledge loyalty to the new Norman King, Red William, when he and most of his warband are slaughtered by Norman troops.  Then, the entire cantref is given as a gift to a Norman nobleman and Bran is labeled an outlaw.  Now he needs to decide if fighting for his home kingdom and title are what he really wants out of life, and if so, just how is he going to conquer the Norman corrupt government.

I’m surprised I’ve never heard of Steve Lawhead before now.  He’s a fantastic writer, and while it’s obvious he has a bit of a bias towards the Welsh people, that’s perfectly alright in the works I’ve read so far.  I’m very interested for another take on the Robin Hood legend, especially since this one has garnered so much praise from other readers I respect.  This story completely takes everything you know about the legend and revamps it.  Robin is no longer Robin, and the only person with the same name is Marian, and even she is completely different than we are used to seeing her.  Instead of a swashbuckling rogue archer, we are introduced to a teenager who has lost everything when he’s used to getting anything he wants, along with fighting his own hormones and trying to hide from the ruling party who is out to murder him.  Along the way, he experiences magic and faith, is forced to use his wits and his problem solving skills.  He’s forced to grow up in a terrifically violent manner and Lawhead does a superb job of bringing us along for the trip.

“Hood” was written by Stephen Lawhead and published in 2006.