© 2007 Stephen Lawhead
Young William Scatlock has been reduced to a landless vagrant, courtesy of malevolent Norman lords and their toadies. It seems as good an occasion as any to trek west and join forces with a phantom of the forest who has been giving the Normans hell – King Raven, a dark and hooded figure who puts the fear of God into the hearts of nobles and churchmen alike. Although the Raven’s Welsh resistance fighters don’t trust a Saxon any more than the Normans, Will quickly proves his mettle and joins their not-so-merrie band, calling himself Will Scarlet. One raid finds the band in a plot far more complicated than the usual corruption. At stake is nothing less than the thrones of England and of Christendom.
When I read Hood a few years back, its historical grounding immediately won me over. Instead of the traditional Crusades-era timeline, Lawhead instead placed his forest rebel some time after the Norman conquest, at which time the Bastard’s heirs were spreading their rule into Wales as well. Robin Hood became a landless Welsh princling (Rhi Bran, or King Bran), thrust into adulthood and leadership when everyone else was killed. Scarlet continues the historical intrigue, this time by having Bran and his follows inadvertently stumble into a a plot that involves both the cold war contest for the English throne between the Bastard’s spawn, as well as the more active conflict between two men claiming to be Pope, Urban and Clement. Will Scarlet is a most agreeable narrator, with colorful self-expression and understandable passion. Of particular interest is the way characters are portrayed differently here; when Hood told his own story, we saw him as the weak princling, scared and uncertain, beset by his fear, anger, and self-loathing. In Scarlet’s eyes, however, Raven is ever the strong and capable leader, with only one bout of uncontrollable anger revealing a little of the ‘other’ man who readers of Hood know is there, under the mask.