After limping through this tour by pulling up old content of mine, I finally have something original to offer: my review of Stephen Lawhead’s latest book, Tuck.
*The final book of the King Raven trilogy picks the action up right after the ending betrayal in Scarlet. Bran and his followers, the Grellon, are returning to the wild and dark forest known as the Marsh when Norman knights ride up on them for an ambush.
After the battle, Bran attempts a peace accord with the usurping lord of his kingdom, Abbot Hugo and his marshal Guy Gysburne. The overture is grossly spurned, and Bran is determined to fight for their rightful freedom. He travels to the northern Welsh to enlist his mother’s kin to help him, while Lady Merian considers the help her own family might be able to offer.
As Bran attempts a daring rescue for a northen Welsh king, his foes bring in the armies of King William Rufus. A climatic battle looms for the woodland fugitives, whether the help is available or not…*
Tuck brings out all the things we love about the Robin Hood legend – arrows flying, daring escapes, cunning impersonations, and a friar who raps the bad guys on the head with a stout staff.
I’ve noted in my last two posts on the first books, Hood and Scarlet, that Lawhead is a great writer but somewhat streaky. Tuck falls into the pattern of the first book, with multiple third person points of view, although mainly following the jolly fat friar we all know and love. Scarlet was mainly from Will Scarlet’s point of view, differing from the other books. Changing point of view is a Lawhead trademark, and I think this sometimes is his undoing.
Thankfully, he avoids the letdown trap in Tuck. Lawhead really found an authentic voice and characterization for all of his major characters. Bran (Robin Hood), Tuck, King William, and others have distinct personalities and act believably throughout. The forest is a tangible danger for the Ffreinc knights who try to defeat the Grellon, but the overwhelming numbers provide equally real suspense whether Bran will succeed or not.
There is a good balance of action and rest in between conflict, without any real dragging parts. As the third in the series, there is a pretty good introduction to all the characters without slowing down the plot. I read the first two long enough ago I couldn’t remember all the events that are mentioned, so that was my only complaint in this area.
Overall Tuck is a highly enjoyable and satisfying finish to a very strong series. I think Scarlet was the best book of the series, but Lawhead did a very good job of making each book stand up on its own.
If you’re a fan of historical fiction, alternate stories, or speculative fiction, then this series is for you. There is enough Celtic lore to make it speculative, even though it mostly rests in the historical realm. However, any fan of Christian speculative fiction would do well to read liberally from Lawhead’s collection of books.