Hood by Stephen Lawhead

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Stephen Lawhead gives a convincing argument for placing Robin Hood in Welsh country, as opposed to the much more familiar Sherwood Forest. I've been drawn to Welsh history ever since I watched Sir Derek Jacobi play a medieval monk in the Cadfael mystery series, so Robin Hood's relocation to that time and place was a lot of fun for me.

In this story, Robin Hood actually goes by the name Bran. He's the reckless and self-serving son of an angry Welsh King, whose lands are about to be invaded by murderous, yet extremely religious Norman conquerors. With his father soon dead, Bran, Iwan (Little John), and many of their people flee to the forest for safety. As more Welsh kingdoms fall to the Normans, Bran struggles to find his destiny, especially as his own plans don't always coincide with the well-being of his people.

Did I find the story suspenseful? Let me answer that with another question: Was I blissfully exhausted after realizing I'd stayed up till 4am to finish the novel last night? The answer is a resounding "yes!" After really getting to know each of the major characters I was happily drawn into the drama.

The plot moved along a little slowly for part of the novel, but what was sacrificed was made up in character development. I was happy with it. And besides, there was plenty of action throughout to keep the overall story riveting. I also truly love Lawhead's descriptions in this story, especially of the landscape, the lifestyle, and the action scenes. At some points his writing seemed exquisite to me. Love love love!

I loved "Hood" and I highly recommend it. Definitely worth 5 out of 5 stars. And I can't wait to read book two in the series: "Scarlet."