The Way of the Word

9. January 2010

Review: Stephen Lawhead – Tuck

Filed under: books,review — jensaltmann @ 11:02
Tags: , ,

Originally published in 2009.

You didn’t need to have read Hood, the first volume in Stephen R. Lawhead’s Raven King trilogy, in order to understand what’s going on in Scarlet. Tuck is a completely different thing. The opening itself makes this perfectly clear: the action starts only a few minutes story-time after the ending of Scarlet.  It works almost like simply turning the page.

Technically, Tuck is the POV character for this third and concluding volume of the trilogy. But Lawhead doesn’t take it as far as he did in Scarlet, by presenting a major part of the story with Tuck as the narrator. Instead, he contents himself with having Tuck witness every event of which he can creditably be a part, and have him play a considerable part of the trilogy’s resolution.

After the betrayal by King William Rufus, the outlaws crawl back into the forest. Disspirited, a lot of Brans people decide to leave. When an attempt at negotiating a peace with Abbot Hugo fails, Bran decides to wage all-out war. But for that he needs an army, not just the handful of men he has left. But when he and Tuck arrive at the castle of his mother’s family, it turns out that the local king is a prisoner of the local Frankish nobleman. Bran works out a trick to free the king, which works. Unfortunately, the king isn’t as grateful as Bran would need, so he returns home empty-handed. Even worse: Mérian, who went to her father to plead for support, discovers that her father is dead, her brother now king, and the Frankish Baron Neufmarché her brother’s new father-in-law. Her family decides to simply lock her up to keep her from running off again.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff has brought in reinforcements, and the forces of Abbot Hugo and Bran wage a final battle for Elfael. Bran wins, reconquers Elfael, and exiles Hugo and Gysburne. Who immediately go to complain to King William Rufus, who gathers an army and marches agaist Bran.

Anything more than that would be spoilers, and I try to avoid spoilers.

I consider Tuck the best novel of the trilogy. Lawhead finally has a good grasp of his cast.  The story is engaging, and the way Bran tricks Baron Hugh is great fun. The outlaws’ plight is desperate, but the various plot threads from Scarlet and this novel come together beautifully. The resolution is a but far-fetched, but works beautifully in the context of the story and brings Tuck’s own story full circle — in a way, at the end he succeeds at something that he failed at in the beginning. Tuck is the most fun of the trilogy. And when I put it down, I found myself hoping that Lawhead will write an addendum to this one, telling us what happens afterwards to Abbot Hugo, Guy de Gysburne, and the Sheriff.

Verdict: recommended

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