Scarlet, by Stephen Lawhead
Posted February 22, 2011on:
Scarlet (King Raven book 2) by Stephen Lawhead
Published in 2007
Where I got it: purchased a few years ago
Why I read it: enjoyed the first book in the series, Hood.
Stephen Lawhead writes only two kinds of books: very good and excellent. Hood was the former, Scarlet the latter.
Scarlet is the second book in Stephen Lawhead’s King Raven trilogy, his take on the Robin Hood legend. Only this time, “Robin Hood” is Rhi Bran y Hud, also known as Bran ap Brychan, also known as King Raven, a prince of Wales who has lost his father and his land to William the Red and his cronies. Scarlet is not a stand alone, you really must read the first book in the series, Hood (reviewed here) first.
After the slowish Hood, I was happily surprised at how fast of a read Scarlet was. It helps that we already know most of the characters and where we are, we’ve already met Bran and Iwan and Merian and Tuck and Angharad and the rest of the downtrodden Welshmen who make their way in the forest. Will Scarlet is the only new character, and we meet him right away, as he is languishing in prison waiting to be hung for a crime he didn’t commit.
Every day a monk named Odo sits with Will, waiting for his confession and writing down everything he says in hopes he will give away the location and identity of King Raven. Will might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but he’s not stupid. He tells his story well, about who he is and what he’s been up to, while leaving out any useful information about the precise whereabouts of Bran ap Brychan or King Raven.
Being Norman, Odo often interrupts Will’s story with questions regarding British and Welsh ideas of society and religion. Some readers might feel this style of writing, from present to flashback and back again every so many pages jarring, but I was able to get used to it pretty quickly.
And Will’s voice! How can you not just adore this guy? His ocassional phonetic slang is bluntly honest and refreshing, and his dry sense of humor is quickly making him my favorite Lawhead character. His voice is bright, lilting, lyrical, and I swear nearly in iambic pentameter at times.
As I’ve come to expect from Lawhead, Scarlet is a pleasure to read, pulling you in from page one. Beyond the joy that was reading Will, Scarlet is full of political intrigue, action up the wazoo, a little bit of romance, and an ending that was surprising yet amusingly preordained.
I feel like this review is rather unorganized. I usually take notes while reading. Not this time. I was so engrossed with the story that all I could think to write down was “I love his voice”.
So I suppose that should be enough to tell you how I felt about the book.
If you enjoy historical fiction, you should have a ball with Lawhead’s King Raven trilogy. And if you’re already a Lawhead devotee like me, you won’t be disappointed, I promise.