Tuck by Stephen Lawhead
Atom, 2009. ISBN 9781905654130
(Age: 13+) Although Tuck is the third in the series in this retelling of the Robin Hood legend it can be read as a stand alone novel. Tuck, the rather corpulent friar we are all familiar with, takes his place in the Lawhead version in a different way than that we are used to. He is as fond of his ale and food as we would expect. His part in this particular telling, however, is a major one.
The setting of Lawhead's tale has moved to the Welsh marshes where William Rufus' hold is not quite as firm as in England. The wild primordial forest gives Rhi Bran and his followers protection and sustenance, with their greatest advantage being the long bow, its range and devastating fire power used with small raiding parties or in battle. Tuck provides Bran with a different sort of intelligence than usually seen in Robin Hood stories. Tuck is able to go where Rhi and the rest of his band are unable to go. As a mendicant friar he is welcome in most places high or low, and his basic understanding of Latin, French, Welsh and English makes him an invaluable tool against the Normans or Ffreinc as the Welsh know them.
Lawhead's story is an exciting one, but because he is essentially retelling a very well known tale it plays out conventionally. The characters are those we're used to, the names vary with the change of setting. The author also gives a pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book and how seriously this is used depends entirely on the reader.
The ending gives reasons as to why the story has come to be now set in Sherwood Forest and in Nottingham in a very clever and satisfying way. A good rollicking read that will give pleasure to any of the vast number of Robin Hood followers. The first two books in this series are Hood and Scarlett. Suitable for secondary readers.