This review contains spoilers.
Book Name: Tuck
Author: Stephen Lawhead
Series: Book #3, King Raven Trilogy
Publisher(s): Thomas Nelson Publishers
Format(s): Hardcover/Trade Paperback/Audiobook/eBook
Genre(s): Historical fiction/Fantasy
Release Date: February 17th 2009
It was going to be a tough challenge for Stephen Lawhead to create a finale as good as the middle book in the “Raven King” trilogy, and while he didn’t reach the high bar he set in Scarlet Lawhead gives us a really fine concluding book in Tuck. Like the previous book Lawhead uses the voice of the title character to tell the story. Brother Aethelfrith, AKA Friar Tuck, is a Saxon who was taken in by the Church during his youth and is as good and kind as the antagonist Abbot Hugo is self-centered and evil.
Tuck picks up at the exact moment Scarlet ends, with Bran ap Brychan having declared war against King William the Red and Hugo, who William has given control of the lands that should have been Bran’s under an agreement made in Scarlet. While originally outnumbered Bran uses superior tactics and weaponry–the Welsh longbow was the most potent weapon of the era–to whittle down the manpower of Hugo, and even after receiving reinforcements Rhi Bran y Hud continues to tilt the scales toward his favor.
As Lawhead did in Scarlet we have another great escape story in Tuck, only this one in the far north as Bran tries to raise an army. This is where the last of the legendary Robin Hood main characters, Allan a’Dale, is introduced. Bran’s efforts are for naught as he returns without any soldiers, and to further add to his misery against Bran’s wishes Mérian has gone home looking for help from her father and has not returned. A visit from Tuck to arrange her release finds Mérian’s brother is now king, and he is a loyal vassal to the Normans.
After Bran’s eventual victory results in Hugo and the Normans returning to King William with their tail between their legs, William calls his lords to raise an army to defeat Bran and the Welsh. Only, not all of his lords answer the call. There is a large skirmish before the main battle where everyone’s intentions are set in stone, but on the morning on what will undoubtedly be a large battle Tuck stumbles into a position to influence King William.
The ending is a touch anti-climatic, but truly fits the tenor of all the books. It’s a fine reimaging of the Robin Hood myth, and very well done. At the end of the book Lawhead has included some notes about the books, which are a great companion piece to the trilogy. Throughout Tuck there are several poems which tell the plot of the book as if a minstrel is singing it. It takes until the epilogue to get their full story, and is another nice touch by Lawhead.
So with three books in the series I’ve rated highly is there anyway I can not recommend “The Raven King” trilogy? Of course not. It was an outstanding series, and well worth reading.