Wednesday, November 28, 2007

King Raven, Part 2

Title: Scarlet

Series: The King Raven Trilogy #2
Author: Stephen R. Lawhead

Genre: Adult Legend

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Scarlet:

So, now. One day soon they hang me for a rogue. Fair enough. I have earned it a hundred times over, I reckon, and that’s leaving a lot of acreage unexplored. The jest of it is, the crime for which I swing is the one offence I never did do. The sheriff will have it that I raised rebellion against the king.

I didn’t.

Oh, there’s much I’ve done that some would as soon count treason. For a fact, I et more of the king’s venison that the king has et bread, and good men have lost their heads to royal pikes for far less; but in all my frolics I never breathed a disloyal word against the crown, nor tried to convince any man, boy, horse, or dog to match his deeds to mine. Ah, but dainties such as these are of no concern when princes have their tender feelings ruffled. It is a traitor they want to punish, not a thief. The eatin’ o’ Red William’s game is a matter too trifling—more insult than crime—and it’s a red-handed rebel they need. Too much has happened in the forests of the March and too much princely pride hangs in the balance to be mincing fair about a rascal poaching a few soft-eyed deer.

Until that ill-fated night, Will Scarlet ran with King Raven and his band of merry thieves. Ran fast and far, I did, let me tell you. Faster and farther than all the rest, and that’s saying something. Here’s the gist: it’s the Raven Hood they want and cannot get. So, ol’ Will is for the jump.

Poor luck, that. No less, no more.

A wandering forester scheduled to hang tells of serving a disposed Welsh prince.

The Writing: As with Hood, Scarlet is well-written. Complex characters, intricate plotting, detailed descriptions that don’t bog down. Even more, I especially enjoyed how this book used Scarlet’s own voice to tell his story and his first-person present tense (“I do” vs. “I did”) brings a nice rhythm to the tale.

However, the voice did brings some unique problems, especially in chronology. Maybe the ambiguity was intentional, but I couldn’t tell until halfway through the book whether the other third-person POVs paralleled Scarlet’s present or the time of his story. (For those who wish to know, it parallels the story he was telling.)

I also became irked occasionally by Odo (the monk writing down Scarlet’s story) and his interruptions. Because of it, I was jerked out of the story several times—not just Scarlet’s but the whole book. Yet all those interruptions do serve a purpose. By the end of the book, Odo became one of my favorite characters.

Overall, these problems are only minor, for Scarlet’s voice overcomes them easily. His meandering commentary also often brought comic relief in a tale shadowed by the hangman’s noose.

The Story: Scarlet carries the same concerns as Hood. Although the overall tone doesn’t seem quite as dark, Scarlet continues to reflect the era in all its brutality and crudity.

Also Angharad, the character with supernatural power (prophetic as well as some others hinted at), weaves in and out of the story. It disturbs me some that she seems able to control these supernatural powers at will (more characteristic of Satanic power in Scripture than God’s), but Mr. Lawhead does a fair job of providing a reasonable explanation and those scenes are only a fraction of the novel.

Summary: Scarlet, like Hood, is well-written and entertaining (and for me personally, more enjoyable), but it carries some content concerns. Therefore, my recommendation is the same: If you want uplifting reading, wish to avoid those elements I’ve noted under “Story” (crudity, violence, questionable magic), or are under sixteen years of age, Scarlet is probably not for you. Otherwise, approach with a little caution and enjoy the grand adventure Mr. Lawhead has created.

Rating: 4.4 out of 5

Ready for the adventure? Order Scarlet here.

(Book 1, Hood, reviewed here, and Book 3, Tuck, reviewed here.)

1 comment:

Christopher Hopper said...

Good, objective review...and I like your rating system! Thanks!