Christian Book Reviews, Author Interviews, Excerpts

Scarlet Continues Trilogy, Re-Telling of Robin Hood

  • Cheryl Russell Infuze Magazine
  • 2007 13 Dec
<i>Scarlet</i> Continues Trilogy, Re-Telling of Robin Hood

Author:  Stephen R. Lawhead
Title:  Scarlet
Publisher:  Thomas Nelson

Will Scarlet is in a bad way. He’s languishing in prison, more of a dungeon really, for a crime he didn’t commit—raising rebellion against King “Red” William. Even though Will readily admits to the reader he’s guilty of many crimes, one of which is poaching the royal venison, he’s never uttered a word or committed an act against the throne. But that minor detail is of little matter to his captors, the foreign Normans. He’ll swing from the end of a hangman’s noose as soon as his usefulness to Count de Braose and Cardinal Ranulf de Bayeux is done. Ranulf has assigned a young priest, “a young laggard of a scribe” to “catch my wild tales and pin them to the pages of a book to doom us all.” Will’s job is to make his “wild tales” interesting enough to prolong his life, but not give anything away regarding King Raven and his band of outlaws.

That is where Will’s real value to his captors resides. King Raven and his band of renegades are the scourge of the Welsh countryside—if you’re a hated Norman. A starving Welshman discovering food or money on his doorstep takes a very different view of the elusive King. The Normans can’t capture the outlaw, but they have one of his own and intend to use Will to their full advantage.

Will Scarlet wasn’t always on the lam. A forester, he lived on the lands of Thane Aelred. (A thane was a man who wasn’t entirely noble or common, but somewhere in between.) Side by side Will and Aelred worked together, as had their fathers before them. But Aelred lost his generational lands in political upheaval and his tenants lost their homes. The buildings were burned, the people turned out, and Aelred sent into exile. His lands were placed under the dreaded Forest Law—a law which placed common lands in the hands of the crown in the form of a hunting preserve, depriving the people of their ancestral hunting grounds and starving them in the process. As things went from bad to worse, Will decided to return to the land of his mother’s birth, Wales, and see if he could join the mysterious King Raven’s band.

Find them he does, and he becomes a valuable member of the band. But one raid lands the outlaws a mysterious treasure. Recovery of the stolen goods becomes paramount to the Count and Cardinal, giving the duo reason to use whatever means necessary to accomplish their goals. Deciphering the mystery in the renegades’ possession may restore King Raven’s lands. But keeping the goods long enough to discover their meaning means Welsh blood, including Scarlet’s, will begin to flow.

The King Raven trilogy is a re-telling of the story of Robin Hood. Scarlet is the second book in the series and much of the story is told from Will’s point of view. Stephen Lawhead’s writing in the first two books pulled me back in time, when England was invaded by Normans and the sufferings the native populations endured under a tyrannical rule rival anything heard on the news today. It is the continuing story of a small group of people, led by a displaced king, determined to reclaim the land and kingdom settled by their ancestors, now under foreign rule. A twist at the end of Scarlet ensures I’ll be reading Tuck (as in Friar Tuck, introduced in the first book and making appearances in the second) when it comes out in 2009.

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.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.