Monday, 14 January 2013

January Challenge - Hood

I'm running a challenge again this month for our Goodreads group You'll Love This One. This will happen now and then this year, and will just mean my Around the World reading gets pushed aside sometimes during the year if they don't fit certain challenges or themes (there are a lot of them, and I should be able to fit in my AtW reading for most of them). I think I have learnt in 2012, that while it is great to have a plan and stick to it, it is just as important to be flexible and have fun with your reading as well. I went from one extreme to the other, and 2013 I hope will be a lovely happy medium.

So this month's challenge had me reading Hood as a retelling of a myth or legend. Which I really enjoyed as I'm a complete sucker for mythology of all shapes and sizes (Rusalkas anyone?). The problem with this book is that it got the 1950s TV show theme stuck in my head. Although, within one bar morphs into this:

Right, so got that out of the way (dum de dum dum dum).

This story of Robin Hood takes Robin out of Sherwood into Wales. And his name isn't Robin, it's Bran. Also, forget about the Crusades and Richard the Lionheart. It's set in the 11th Century when William the Conqueror was swanning about. So really, forget most of what you knew about Robin Hood for this book.

Young Bran is the Prince in his part of Wales. The Normans have taken England, and are looking towards Wales with a not very nice intent. Bran's Dad has decided he should go to London and swear his allegiance to the King, however he has come to this conclusion too late. On the road to London, quite close to home, he and all his men are slaughtered by Normans. Besides Bran, who missed the leaving time of the convoy, as he was in the next Welsh kingdom over trying to get into the Princess Mérian's bed and another things. Bran's mate, Iwan, the King's Champion also escapes to tell everyone what has happened (convenient plot device!) and that the King is dead and the Normans are coming to take over everything.

Other stuff happens, Bran runs off to London with Iwan and a monk to try and get his kingdom back. Along the way, they stay with another monk, an Englishman, who can't pronounce Iwan so he calls him "Little John" and Iwan can't pronounce his name either, so calls him "Friar Tuck". Things don't go so well in London, and they go home, things get very messy and Bran is believed to be killed. But he gets nursed back to health, convinced of his rightful path and starts getting to what we have all been waiting for. The Robbing and the Hooding.

My complaint with the book is there is an awful lot of back story. I mean a ton. I don't think we even see Robin Hooding until around chapter 30. And when you're reading a book about Robin Hood, that seems like an very long time to wait. I do realise the book is a part of a series. But the point of the first book in a series is to draw people in. Get them excited to read the second and third (or if you're Robert Jordan, the tenth, eleventh, twelfth, you get my point) books. This book got there at the end, but I'm grumpy I read two thirds of the book before I got to what I was waiting for.

Luckily the book was well written and easy to read. Which was a blessing when you wanted to get to the story you picked up the book for. Stephen Lawhead obviously did a lot of research about the time and the area as well, and that shines through the book. It is a good book, it is just worth the disclaimer that it may not launch right into what you think the book is about. But it's an enjoyable journey to get there. I may pick up the other two books in the series at some stage, seeing as it just started getting interesting, but we will have to see.

(dum de dum dum dum)

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