By: Stephen Lawhead

I’d like to apologize first and foremost for not reviewing the first book in the series, Hood, since it’s been a while since I’ve read it, but I will mention a few things about it in reviewing Scarlet.

The first thing I have to say about this book is a big THANK YOU! to Mr. Lawhead for providing an extremely useful pronunciation guide at the front of the book.  In a story with so many Welsh/Celtic names, it’s nice to be able to pronounce them at least somewhat properly in my head rather than butchering them completely.  I absolutely hate it when I can’t figure out how to say a name, and I find it makes it more difficult to remember the character.

This series, starting with Hood, is a more historically realistic retelling of Robin Hood, or Rhi Bran Hud, as he is called in this story, which translates to King Raven the Enchanter.  This telling is set in Wales in a forest known as the March, rather than Sherwood Forest.  Merian, Friar Tuck, and Little John are represented, if not with those exact names.

Now, onto the story.  I was a little surprised at first how this story focuses on the trials and tribulations of one Will Scarlet and his association with Bran who we met in the first book.  I was expecting this story to be a continuation of Bran’s story, but I really liked this different point of view.  We are introduced to Will, in his prison cell, as he relates his tale to a priest while awaiting his execution.  The more he relates the more you really want him to make it out of this alive, even if it seems his fate is sealed.  I found I liked this story a bit more than the first for some reason.  Perhaps it had a bit more action.  I thought Hood was a little slower than I anticipated, but I think that comes primarily from comparing it to fantasy novels.  This series is essentially historical fiction with only the slightest touch of the supernatural in the form of Angharad, a bard and adviser to Bran and his group of refugees.  Since this is not a fantasy novel, there aren’t countless monsters and supernatural challenges to face, only mortal, flesh and blood, people, so that can slow things down just a bit.  That being said, I really liked it.  I like this history and the medieval politics.  The characters are like able, except for the ones not meant to be, and those are as infuriating as possible.  I look forward to the conclusion of the series, Tuck.  Hopefully everything will turn out well for these poor people and Bran will get his land back.  It’s unlikely, but I can hope.

Happy Reading!

The series is as follows: Hood, Scarlet, Tuck


5 thoughts on “Scarlet

  1. I bought the first book during the closing sales of Border’s Books but haven’t read it yet. I liked Lawhead’s Taliesin, though, and am excited to see what he might do with the Robin Hood legend. It sounds like a very different take. Even a historical retelling would still set Robin in Sherwood (or Barnsdale), not in Wales at all, so it seems more like Lawhead is taking inspiration from Robin Hood to weave a kind of alternate-universe take on the legend. Or something. This is the gist I get without having read it (not suggesting actual alternate-universe as in sci-fi, but you know. Transplanting Robin Hood from his normal setting to a different one, like writing about King Arthur being in France instead of England. Which I think the French have actually done before.

    1. I see your point about it not being a true historical retelling, and the only reason I suggested that, was because in the first book in the series the author had a few pages at the back, if i remember correctly, making a case that if such a person were to have existed they would have more likely been in Wales. I believe he traced aspects of the myth back, as well as making a good case for the forests in that area being so large and primeval that it made sense that one could actually hide people living in a community within it. I don’t have the book in front of me though, so I can’t really argue it…Thank you so much for your comment! 🙂

  2. I too read Taliesin, and loved how it was a slightly different take on the Merlin myth. And didn’t Taliesin also have a pronunciation guide in the front?

    My favorite thing about Scarlet was Will’s voice. His personality was very unexpected, and so different from Bran’s and from other Lawhead style characters, he was very refreshing! I’m pretty sure the 3rd book in the series is out, Tuck, is that from Tuck’s POV then?

    1. I believe Tuck is out, yes…just haven’t gotten to it yet, and I would assume that it would be from Tuck’s point of view if Scarlet is any indication. I’m very curious about Stephen Lawhead’s other novels now that I’ve read these, so I think I’ll be putting Taliesin at the top of my list. 🙂
      Thanks for commenting!

    2. Yup, it has a pronunciation guide! Very useful, for those of us who don’t know Welsh. If you read enough high fantasy or medieval-or-earlier historical fiction, you get very used to pronunciation guides. I never would’ve made it through my collection of Irish myths without the guide showing me how to make sense of those crazy names! (but really, I think Gaelic names are awesome.)

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