The Hooded One. The one to breathe the dark and light and dusk between....
When an old druid foresees this harbinger of chaos, he also glimpses its future. A peasant from Loxley will wear the Hood and, with his sister, command a last, desperate bastion of Old Religion against New. Yet a devout nobleman's son could well be their destruction—Gamelyn Boundys, whom Rob and Marion have befriended. Such acquaintance challenges both duty and destiny. The old druid warns that Rob and Gamelyn will be cast as sworn enemies, locked in timeless and symbolic struggle for the greenwode's Maiden.
Instead, a defiant Rob dares his Horned God to reinterpret the ancient rites, allow Rob to take Gamelyn as lover instead of rival. But in the eyes of Gamelyn’s Church, sodomy is unthinkable... and the old pagan magics are an evil that must be vanquished.
1st Edition published by Dreamspinner Press, January 2013
Her award-winning historical fantasy series, The Books of the Wode, is BIG... and a truly innovative re-imagining of the Robin Hood legends, with the notorious outlaw archer as a queer, chaotic-neutral druid.
Active in genre literature and conventions in the 70s/80s/90s, JTH returned to the publishing fold in 2013, and in 2018 was chosen to receive the Speculative Literature Foundation’s juried Older Writers Grant.
Silence. Darkness. Only a charred lump of ash remains… and the horns, blackened. Then the lump… moves. Rises. Covered in ash, dark as the Horned Lord had been, the figure is tall, and hooded, and it reaches for him….
First of all... GAAAAAAHHH!!!
Second of all..... GAAAAAAAHHH!!!
Now that that is out of the way.
This book is incredible. Fantasy is not my go to genre because most of the time i don't understand half the shit that is going on. That said, i have found myself enjoying the ones i have read and this was no different. I was confused at the beginning didn't understand half of the shit going on, when i reached in the middle of chapter 4, i realized i was reading it wrong, i.e i was concentrating on not getting shit, instead of going with the flow, so i went back to the beginning and starting it all over again and let me tell you it was;
This story is the re-imagining of the legends of Robin Hood. I know nothing deep about Robinhood except the little the movie i watched showed me. While reading this i felt the passion the author has when it comes to this legend. The writing is stellar, very engaging and detailed. She gave me more that expected. She mixed this with old religion, i am not a fan of anything to do with religion. I find it so hypocritical and sometimes that takes me out of the story. Ms. Hennig did an amazing job with balancing. The religion aspects was not shoved in my face and i found myself feeling sorry for the some of characters instead of wanting to strangle them. Some i wanted dead.... Like torture-ry dead. GAAAAAHH!!
The characters are soo well developed. The author took her time developing each character.
Our Main MCs:
Rob - Robinhood and Gamelyn were two complete opposites. It's true what they say about opposites. They really do attract. From the moment Rob is introduced, i fell in love, it was instant. He is one stubborn character, resilient, knows what he wants and is not afraid of going after it. One who will do anything for those he loves. Gaaaahhhh!!! .. Mi loves Rob.
So he concentrated on eating. And most abjectly did not notice Gamelyn’s hands, deft and economical with the knife as he trimmed the rind from the cheese and cut pieces of apple to dole out between them. Or the way his lashes brushed his cheeks, tipped with bronze not unlike the freckles scattered beneath them as he looked down at what he was doing.
Gamelyn! Gamelyn! milord Gamelyn!! Mmmhhhh!! This guy is complex, I wanted to smack him so hard sometimes and hug him at the same time. He is battling some inner demons that i wanted him to stop and shake off the demon on his shoulder. He brought out the Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Hyde in me. I love him too, like i love Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
Gamelyn had fully intended to head straight to the library after the meal. Instead he had come as far as the door out into the courtyard, seen the commotion there—soldiers gathering gear and getting ready for their escort duty on the morrow—and parked his buttocks in the window next to that door to watch
Ok! You see that girl in the back? The one on the cover with long hair? Yeah that one!!! her name is MARION! She is Rob's sister and she is FREAKING AWESOME!!!! WE all LOVE MARION.
I will not go into details about the other characters, because if i did, we might be here waiting for Dinosaurs to not become extinct. Because, i have rants and praises that rivals the book pages. Just know they are not one dimension.
This is not your typical Romance driven story. That said, the relationship between Gamelyn and Rob develops at a pace that i love, so effortlessly, they just fit. Two opposite humans that just FIT!! GAAAAAAAAHHH!!!
I believe i said something about the writing, if not, i will repeat it again, The writing is incredible, and this book shines in the humor department. I was loling so hard, you want my to won my reading heart give me humor, the good kind only! and you will have my reading heart, you can do with it whatever you want as long as you keep making me laugh until i feel like peeing. The humor is incredible, if you blink you miss it.
But maybe Gamelyn did like Marion better. Which was also irritating, and for no good reason. “Aye, well then,” Will murmured with a wink. “Simon thinks you’re prettier. But he’s a tunic lifter, just like you—” “Sod you, Scathelock.”
Long story Long!!! AYE READ THIS BOOK!!!!
Thank you to Cristina, Ele, Linda, Moony, Rosa, Teal and Xia for this epic buddy read. Let the adventure continue in book 2 and hopefully 3, 4 and 5.
Passionate and intense. Fantastic and fantastical. A lush and seductive sensory onslaught. Gorgeous, glorious, and one of the best things I've ever read. Taken in combination with Shirewode, as it must be to complete the story arc, this was the best reading experience I've had in the last 25 years.
I can't imagine writing a review that could do it justice. This review by Jesse is what lured me in to reading it, so I'll refer you there. Yet I can't seem to move on from my immersion in this fictional reality without at least attempting to write about it. So:
The story is peopled with vivid, multi-dimensional characters who seem organic to their era -- yet if they could walk off the page into the 21st century, they would be instantly recognizable and relatable. They vie with each other in a clash of cultures as the Christian/Norman ruling class exerts its dominance over the pagan/Saxon commoners of late 12th century England.
And out of this struggle will emerge the mythic figure known as Robin Hood. But you need have no particular interest in Robin Hood to fall under the spell of these books. My own familiarity with the RH legend comes from having read and reread The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood as a child. (A version with NC Wyeth's gorgeous illustrations -- they made such an impression on me!) I've never seen a RH movie, or a single episode of a RH television series. It was never deliberate avoidance; in fact it rather shocked me just now to realize it. Yet I know the legend well enough, through childhood exposure and cultural osmosis, to enjoy a little jolt of recognition when for example the young Will Scathelock makes his appearance in Greenwode. But The Wode books stand on their own with absolutely no requirement for interest in the RH mythos.
The risk with something this lush and intense is overwriting: that the prose will be florid, overwrought, self-indulgent. That isn't the case here. Yet I know these books won't be for everyone. Perhaps I wouldn't have been so utterly beguiled myself if not for having first encountered Robert Holdstock's marvelously atmospheric Mythago Wood. That was years ago, yet it conjured up an indelible vision of the wild and living forest, a vision that was evoked powerfully for me once again in the pages of Greenwode.
Another resonance I felt was with The Greenwood Tarot. I collect tarot decks, and I when acquired the Greenwood it was for the sake of its rarity, not from any particular affinity for its artwork or its theme. But as I read Greenwode I felt compelled to pull out this deck and page through its images. Apparently the Robin Hood mythology was part of the inspiration behind its creation, so the resonance wasn't just in my imagination. This image in particular drew my eye:
I have to admit I wondered "What's with the horse? Where'd that come from?" Well, in Book 2 it becomes obvious what's with the horse. ;) And speaking of Book 2, please wish me luck with reviewing it, because Shirewode builds on everything in Greenwode to create something even richer, deeper and more marvelous... There's no way I'll be able to do it justice.
This is a first for me: from 3.5 stars to 5 stars. When I first read this, I thought it was an M/M Romance version of Robin Hood, and that colored the way I read it. But as I continued on with the series, I realized it was so much more than that, and I removed it from the Romance(™) shelf in my brain. Now, on this reread, everything just fell into place. The strife between the old world/old religion/old ways and the new world/new religion/new ways was front and center throughout, and Robyn and Gamelyn were just two lads caught in the middle of forces they couldn't full understand and certainly couldn't control.
Ok, there is still a little bit of a "lost in the sheets" element to this near the end, but those scenes weren't as numerous as I remembered, and they served a purpose beyond just the sex. There are so many layers to this story, this world and these characters, and we're just scratching the surface of what's possible. The writing is lovely, the characters are all fully fleshed out, the villains are the realest, scariest villains ever, and the way the fantastical elements are laid out from beginning to end both confound and entice you to keep on reading and learn more.
I did finally last year listen to The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle, and am I ever glad I didn't know Gamelyn's role in that collection of the mythos before I read this series for the first time. I would have been even more nerve-wracked than I already was!
Thanks for the awesome buddy read: Elena, Teal, Moony, Shile, Rosa and Xia.
I have mixed feelings on this one.
First off, I've never read any of the Robin Hood legends, and the only movies I've seen are Prince of Thieves and Men in Tights, so I can't in anyway compare this to the source material aside from the obvious - Marion is Robin's sister, and Rob's gay. I remember John and Will from the PoT movie, but I pretty much don't know who anyone else is. So I'm just going to review this like any other book.
As a fantasy adventure historical, this is great. Very imaginative and takes place in roughly the same time frame as the original RH stories. The pagans are still very much a presence but slowly being squeezed out and pushed to the sidelines by the Christians. There's a lot of world-building here but none of it feels overwhelming. The social and religious strife between the two sides in this conflict is realistic and rooted in our actual history, while adding in elements of fantasy. It's a good meld of the two.
As a romance, you could pretty much pull it out of this book, and plop into any other YA/teen in-the-closet/coming-out story and it would be exactly the same as all of those, along with way too much sex. Except, you know, actual lives are in danger and not just teen angst making it feel like that's the case. Rob's especially pig-headed, and I wanted to smack him a few times, especially at the end, but the book does that well enough when he decides listening to his dick is more important than being stealthy, so I'll refrain. ;) Gamelyn's struggles to accept himself despite his upbringing were interesting though, and I liked that we get to see both accepting and fire-and-brimstone views on sodomy by the two prominent religious figures.
The narrator does an excellent job bringing the story to life and voicing all the characters. He's easy to understand and is able to do a full range of vocalizations for both the male and female characters, and he's pretty great with the accents too.
4.5 stars. Unbelievably good. I had high expectations, and it surpassed them.
I'm going to put an RTC pin in thislink to my book 2 review, which doesn't have any spoilers even for this first volume. But in case you need more than my vague ringing endorsement, go here. It even has pretty pictures. :D
I received this book as an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I really enjoyed this book. The mythology was well developed, and felt true to the times, and the cultures. I liked that it wasn't a case of one group being the "good guys" and the other being the "bad guys", but rather a meeting of different people, and cultures, and values. I liked how this book set the stage for what is to come. It let me understand the people involved, and the factors that shaped them into the figures that they become. I liked that it wasn't just about them as mythology, but them as people. People who make mistakes, and get things wrong. I appreciated the handling of the religious aspects, and how everyone's faith was treated with respect, and neither religion was treated as all good or all bad. I liked the progression of events, and I ended buying the next two books before I had finished this one. Always a good sign for me.
Greenwode is a queer, fantasy retelling of Robin Hood set in medieval Scotland. When it's good it's incredible, but it also took me two months to read because it is so dense and descriptive. The emotion, the longing, the characterization, and the depiction of pagan spirituality versus Christianity during this time is all brilliantly done. In this version, Rob and Marion are siblings and heirs to a sort of pagan lordship. Gamelyn is the son of an English nobleman and they all become unlikely friends as children, though something more develops between Rob and Gamelyn eventually.
The feelings are vibrant, the stakes are incredibly high, and Gamelyn's struggle to make sense of his love and desire for Rob with what he has been taught by the church about homosexuality is viscerally felt. This moment of change- the old gods battling the new- are very reminiscent of the the themes found in The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. It's clear that a lot of research went into this- the language and descriptions are carefully constructed to the time and place, but bringing to life the magic of pagan gods and the people they work through.
A LOT happens in this book, some of it devastating, and it ends on a huge cliffhanger. It's the sort of thing that could have become a new favorite, but I feel like it's a bit overwritten. The level of description and some of the pacing feels unnecessary and at times that made it quite slow to get through. I would typically expect to finish a book of this length in a week or so while reading other books, but often I would only get through one or two chapters at a time and so it took much longer. And not because I was trying to savor it it, but because it was so dense and time-consuming. So mixed feelings on the reading experience, even though the highs were very high. I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher, all opinions are my own.
I can’t in good conscience let this review stand as it is. I loved the first two books, as it shows in my enthusiastic reviews, but after finishing the entire series, I need to add a warning to anybody reading this. Read this series, absolutely do it, it is worth it. BUT stop at the end of the second book. There will be some loose ends and things you’d like to see resolved, but it’s a good stopping point and my advice is to walk away from the series there because there are few answers given in the following books, especially the last two, and those that are given are insufficient and/or in no way coherent with the characterization of the first two books. Don’t stay around to see an amazing story get ruined, walk away with the good memories still intact. ------------------------------------------- 4.5 stars
I’m giving up on writing a “proper” review for this book, for a lot of reasons, but especially because I can’t spare the brainpower to do it at the moment. I’m already thinking about the next book. Which I need to start. As soon as possible.
A few things you need to know about Greenwode. Don’t get discouraged if you’re completely confused at first, I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to be. You’ll probably need to get used to the way some characters speak, but it’ll be worth it. SO worth it. Don’t get discouraged if you’re still confused after a while, I’m pretty sure you’re still supposed to be. At some point you may fantasize about a painful, slow death for some secondary characters. Don’t be ashamed, you’re not the only one. When you’ll stop being confused you may experience some mild (understatement of the century) anxiety. AKA you won’t be able to put the book down. Actually, that might happen even before you stop being confused. Still, it’ll be worth it. Be sure you’ll be able to buy the next book by the time you finish this one, you’ll need it.
Oh, yes, this book is great and I have a feeling this series will be great. I’m rounding down for now because I’m wary of throwing 5 stars at the first book in a series, but I’m tempted to round up and I may still change my mind.
(ETA: I've decided to round up in the end. Any book that can keep me on the edge of my seat for hours and be still stuck in my head the day after I finish it deserves 5 stars.)
If you are looking for a real review, check this one out. ---------------------------------------- Sending a big thank you to my amazing buddy readers. I don’t know how I would survive some books without you. 😘
Loved it! I'm not sure I can do justice to The Wode. This Greenwode was a perfect introduction of characters and world, and what introduction this has been! I'm not into Robin Hood myths, the only thing I knew about it was what I remembered about Errol Flynn's 1938 movie which was one of my favourites when I was little. I've watched that film countless of times because I just couldn't get enough of all those duels and castles and evil lords. In this retelling there isn't many duels, but there're lots of magic, and nature, and old rites. There're old Gods walking the Earth feeling that their time is getting short because a new one is trying to take their place.There're also marvellous characters, some of them who think their believes are supperior and if you don't follow those believes, you must be erradicated. At first the dialect Rob and his family used was a bit difficult to follow not being an English native speaker, but then, I got used to it and the reading got smoother. I also liked how the characters and the world they are into is shown to us, little by little, unraveling all those layers and the web that tie them together. And how we are shown their struggles between want and duty. The story builds up to a major explosion at the end which I was dreading since eary in the book, when we met certain character and learn more about them. So, after finishing book 1 I had to go right away to book 2 for REASONS. Thank you everyone for the awesome BR, Cristina, Ele, Linda, Moony, Shile, Teal and Xia!
Out of every single book I've ever read in my life...this may be #1. Greenwode didn't just tug at my heartstrings...it yanked insistently, relentlessly and mercilessly, in equal amounts of pleasure and pain. I felt like I was there, right there, experiencing every feeling and emotion through the entire story, emotions and feelings so strong they were almost tangible, almost a strong taste in my mouth at times...wow.
This book had me, on the first page. On so many levels.
First, for the story itself: as solid as the oldest, strongest oak tree you can imagine. Every scene, every twist in the plot, is thrillingly perfect and leads you headlong into the next scene, and the next, and the next. Enchantment. Adventure. Beauty. Heartbreak. Heartwarmth. Elation, sadness, anger, horror, disgust. Pity. Faith. Love.
Settings so real...I know it's a cliché, but clichés are what they are because they're true...the settings are so real you feel like you're right there. So real, but also so powerful and heady that it's almost too much to bear at times.
And apart from that, I've always loved tales of Robin Hood and the Sheerwood Forest. So there was that.
And then...there was that. One of the currents that really makes up the lifeblood of this story is the love between Rob and Gamelyn, who are both male. It's not something you see very often in tales of Robin Hood...and also something you don't see very often in general. Growing up, I read countless good books, many great books, and a few really awesome books, which totally spoke to me on almost every level...except for one. For someone like me, there was always something very lonely about reading story after story yet never reading a love story that spoke to me. I'm fine with the guy getting the girl (or the girl getting the guy), really I am. But I always used to read book after book and wonder what it would be like to read about the guy getting the guy, instead. Something that actually spoke my language, for once.
Well, all I have to say is, if this is what straight people feel like when they read a love story about a straight couple...then wow. I suddenly get it. And that probably had something to do with why this story just reached in and grabbed my heart, because it is something so close to my heart. The way that Gamelyn deals with his confusion over his feelings for another man...yet is unable to deny what he feels inside...well, that may be a theme that has been done before, but never has it been done this beautifully, this enthrallingly, this heartbreakingly. Sometimes it's a sucker punch, but it "hurts good" the whole time.
For those readers who don't typically read M/M love-interest stories...it does get quite moderately graphic in that department. But if that's not normally your thing, don't let it deter you too much. I'm fine with sex in a book as long as it has a meaning, and it isn't gratuitous or superfluous. This is neither; it is integral to the story being told, and the characters themselves. Whether it's love, sex, adventure, action, suspense, horror, or any mixture of those, this book hits the nail right on the head. And the scenes between Gamelyn and Rob are so believable, so vivid...it's just really amazing. Despite all of the insurmountable odds...they struggle to be together. And it is freaking awesome.
And last but not least...the characters in general. J Tullos Hennig makes each character shine, whether they have a central role or a very minor role. From Rob and Gamelyn (who make me just shake my head and smirk, in a good way) to Marion (who I loved from the very beginning...a rarity in a male-male love-interest story is a really good, pivotal role for a female character; well let me tell you, this story has several, and Marion is absolutely a leading lady in her own right) ... and all of the characters, all the way down to the little girl gathering mushrooms in the forest later than she should have been...all of them have their own story to tell, and all of them are captivating. Even the b***h of a Raven, Abbess Elisabeth...even she shines in her own gleefully horrible way (my stomach turns just thinking of her) but the little glimpses into her own personal life? Wow. It doesn't make me hate her any less, but it definitely adds depth to her character. Wow, wow, wow.
This book...is amazing. Parts of it make you feel--like Gamelyn felt--so full of tingling fire that it is amazing you don't spontaneously combust just by reading it. Other parts make you feel like your heart has been ripped out of your chest and ran over by a herd of galloping wild horses. But every bit of it is beautiful, and unforgettable.
Good books make you think about them after you've finished reading them. Great books make you think a lot after you've finished reading them. Awesome books haunt you for months afterward. But amazing books like this one? This one will haunt me for the rest of my life (and I welcome that, gladly) and I really am changed, for reading this, on so many levels. Not the least of which that I can whisper a prayer of thanks when my husband holds me close, that we can have the life we have, which would never have been possible in a time like Rob's and Gamelyn's. But what's even more inspiring than that...is that they didn't let that stop them.
This was an extraordinary beginning to The Wode series by J. Tullos Hennig.
As written by other reviewers, I did too approach Greenwode expecting to find a retelling of the Robin Hood's legend, but this book is so much more.
The author combines the folktale and lore surrounding Robin Hood with the story recounted in The Tale of Gamelyn (a 14th-century romance written in Middle English) and with the beliefs of the old gods and religion of the Anglo-Saxons in the historical moment where their cultural heritage and rites were encroached and threatened by the French power over England.
The novel is a truly complex tapestry, with swift changes of POV, both amongst the characters but also between the characters and the inner voices of the Horned Lord and the Lady who whisper in Rob, Gamelyn and Marion's ears.
The main characters are all very well constructed - Rob is headstrong and reckless, Marion strong-willed and clever, Gamelyn sincere but tormented. The way they complement and enrich each other was a pleasure to behold.
The writing style, that brings together old English and modern turns of phrase, takes some getting used to, but it quickly becomes compelling and fascinating.
I'll write a review of the whole series after reading the last volume.
HOLY FUCKING SHIT, THIS BOOK TORE MY NERVES APART MOLECULE BY GRIEVOUS MOLECULE
it started off pretty slow and boring which is why i'm only giving it four stars (and because i'm anticipating the next one will be five stars) but hoOOOOOooly fuck when the tension started going it DID. NOT. STOP. for one fucking second i fucking swear
i'm so dead. i'm so glad this series is on kindle unlimited otherwise i'd be screaming into the void for like 9138103 years
anyways i'm too Shook to write a proper review so y'all are you going to have to deal with this incoherence lmao
Listen. First of all, shout out to Teal & Alison who pushed me into reading this. BUT I CAN’T BELIEVE I STARTED READING THIS WHILE THE BOOKS ARE OUT OF PRINT. WHY. If this series & their love doesn’t get a happy ending I might have to set fire to the world. :)
The book called for my attention instantly: the setting is unusual, the plot is unusual, the MC are unusual… Ok, we have seen lots of movies with Robin Hood and Little John and Prince John, the Sherwood Forest, Nottingham, etc, etc, etc. But it was striking the idea of a romance with a man instead of Marian.
Marian here is Robin’s sister.
It was strange for me, but I got used to it quickly.
The book has a lot of different parts. That’s bad because it means some of them are awesome, and some of them are heavy. The good pages are very romantic: Gamelyn and Robin as friends, then as secret lovers. And God, they are so SWEET.
Gamelyn is Christian, and he lives in a castle. Robin is a pagan and he lives in the forest. Gamelyn hides his heart from his family and Robin hides his druid customs from everyone except his family.
Two worlds that would never understand each other. Pagans are subjugate by Englishmen and homosexuals are a sin for Christians in general.
But they are brave enough to live their desires, because when they are together, they don’t have eyes for anything else. But the world was not created only for them, and outside forces (religion, family, politics…) make an appearance and threatens to destroy everything they hold dear.
The problem here is that there is a lot of filler: too many pages about religion, too many pages about druids and magic and hallucinations, too many pages about childhood. Too many pages about flings with passing youths. I loved this book but I also yawned over it.
The most interesting facts happen from halfway of the story on, when Robin and Gamelyn are in their teens and everything surrounding them shatter their little bubble of happiness. Everybody has a say in some moment, and they claim their right to do so. There is a commotion of people and beliefs and confrontations and what began as love ends in hate and loss and revenge vows.
The book ends in a cliffhanger. It’s obvious there is a second part, and although I’m undeniable curious about how they would get their HEA after so many years apart from each other, I don’t think I would voluntarily offer my time to get bored.
ETA: Fourth time reading this (in a year!) and it's even more gripping now. Simply spectacular.
Absolutely amazing. I loved this so much. This is the first book in a spectacularly good historical fantasy series. It's a rich re-telling of the Robin Hood mythology set in twelfth century England and I absolutely loved it. This series is incredibly immersive and it grabbed me by the heart from the very beginning and sucked me in completely. It's magical and completely involving.
This is excellent storytelling. I love the writing--it's rich, detailed, lyrical, and full of feeling and subtext. The characterisation is wonderfully done and so strong, and these characters are full of realism and they're so vibrant and sympathetic and flawed (and so loveable). Even the secondary characters are well developed, with vivid personalities and strong presences. I feel like I really know and understand the characters and why they do what they do, even the villains. This first book is somewhat a prequel-type origin story in that Robin Hood isn't actually in this book--you'll have to read the second book for that part. Instead, this the story of teenage pagan peasant Rob, his older sister Marion, and their Christian nobleman friend, Gamelyn. All three are POV characters and I love that Marion is such a strong character in her own right, and she plays an even bigger role in the later books. The love story is beautiful and delicate. The historical setting really comes alive and I love that the social and cultural aspects of medieval life are so thoroughly a part of the story. The author's research, not only of the time period, but of the Robin Hood-related body of literature and the Old English ballads, is clear. Religion, and the conflicts between Christianity and the traditional pagan faith, is a major theme in this series and I found the discussions of the nature and the meaning of faith and G/god to be fascinating. I learned a lot reading this, not only because the book is thoughtful and full of information, but because I wanted to know more and kept looking things up.
At over 150,00 words (more than 500 pages), this is a longish book, though it never felt long and it's very much a story to get lost in. If you're looking for a quick, easy, light Robin Hood-themed m/m romance, this is not it. This is a book, and a series, full of depth and subtext that asks you to think. It is the beginning of a long and epic story (that is still unfinished). There are some very dark moments and lots of bad things happen to our intrepid heroes, but there is a beautiful love story at its heart. The ending is quite dramatic and I bought the second book, Shirewode, within minutes of finishing. These books have affected me so strongly and I've spent an entire month wonderfully lost in the reading and the immediate re-reading of the three books. Highly recommended, to say the least.
This was a striking, lush, and lovely tale, epic and full of pathos. I thought the world-building was superb, and the writing was beautiful. It loses a star not based on the quality, but because the romance fell a little flat for me. I wasn’t fully convinced as to why Rob cared for Gamelyn so much, beside the fact that they were fated to affect one another’s lives. I found Rob to be a better-developed and more dynamic character than Gamelyn. Rob was a little annoyingly forceful at times, but his stubbornness and single-mindedness was also a compelling character trait.
I think I found the characters who were neither hero nor villian the most interesting of all. Like Gamelyn’s father and middle brother, Otho. They lacked our modern mores and values, but they still had love for Gamelyn and didn’t come off as pure evil like Gamelyn’s oldest brother and the Abbess.
A couple little niggles. Perhaps because I was raised with no religious affiliation (so they all seem equally silly), I found it odd to be expected to believe in the truth of the old religion while simultaneously being expected to find it unreasonable that Gamelyn would fear the punishments of his Christian god. Gods are not really known to be reasonable to or to care too much about mortal lives, so if they are all real, then Gamelyn fearing divine punishment seems fair. As in, Rob could have shown a little more empathy for Gamelyn's crisis. But then again, a flawed hero is always more interesting. Secondly, pre-modern European ritual didn’t tend to be exclusive in the way Judeo-Christian religion evolved to be, so the complete rejection of the Christian gods by these pagans rang a little off to me as well. I’m a Classicist and definitely not an expert in Medieval England, but I do believe that even under the Normans there was more syncretism between “mysticism” and Christian practice than there was hard division. But then, even if that's true, suspending disbelieving in favor of the good guys is not too difficult to do.
I am definitely looking forward to the next book in this beautiful series, and seeing how the story develops from here!
With a definite foray into the magical, this retelling of the legend of Robin Hood is actually far more than a mere interpretation of what we all know. It takes the basics of the legend and adds a whole new meaning to the events, providing us with a historical and spiritual view that is to my knowledge, unique. The battle of the pagans versus the encroaching Catholic Church, in addition to the poor versus rich angle (which happens to overlap, since most of the poor are also pagans) actually sounds very realistic to me. It is one that I have not heard or read much about, but J Tullos Hennig does an excellent job at seamlessly merging this new vision with well-known stories. I was completely fascinated and impressed with the world !
There is so much good about this book I'm not even sure where to start. First, I'm an old fantasy nerd, and Robin Hood hits it hard. This retelling is fantastic, in both the original meaning of the word and in the awesome meaning of the word.
Let's start with the basics: the language. A minor pet peeve of mine is historical novels where everyone speaks modern English. It just sort of hinders my willing suspension of disbelief. Hennig crafts a world where I can hear the accents in the voices--the variety between the low and high born. There are touches of French, Latin and Gaelic (I think, may be Welsh, I don't remember that it's specifically named), but their use is historically accurate and lends such depth to the world.
The myth maintained: I actually took a class that focused 1/3 of the semester on Robin Hood, so reading this story, seeing where the author has pulled from some of the oldest ballads and woven in all of the key components and characteristics of Robin Hood, yet, making them into a story that I haven't quite read was thrilling. The author did her research and it shows. Both in her weaving of the traditional tale and in her historic details.
The original take: One thing the original myths don't really focus much on is religion. It is present, but not a focus. So, Greenwode has a unique and creative--yet logical--twist on the Robin Hood myth, placing not only the rich against the poor but Christianity against the native pagan religion.
"The old gods aren't dead... we forget that at our peril..." --Brother Dolfin
The mysticism and magic of the old religion, and honestly, just the information about and portrayal of the old religion, is completely fascinating.
And then, we have the characterization. The characters, the heart of the story and my ultimate draw-- They're the icing on the cake for this one. Rob and Marion are spectacular as brother and sister and Rob's developing relationship with the the near monastery-bound Gamelyn is portrayed wonderfully. The two are magnetic. I can't think of a character that isn't well crafted and defined--from Rob, to his parents, Gamelyn's family and the Horned God himself. All I could think at the end was "Wait, that's it?!"
No. Fortunately, it's the first in a duology... the second just doesn't come out until late this month. Where Greenwode explores mostly pre-myth Rob, the sequel promises to give us more of the Robin Hood--or Hode--myth that we know and love. Honestly, I can't wait for it.
This one is a highly recommended read. Just read it. It blew me away.
To me 12th-century England was a fascinating time, filled with knights, squires, wizards, and wonderfully mystical religions, all functioning in and around vast, primeval forests where Druids practised their ancient rites. Of these, the Greenwode, by J Tullos Hennig [Dreamspinner Press, January 18, 2013] is probably best known, i.e. all one has to do is add Rob of Loxley (or “Robin Hood”) to comprehend why.
As such, it is somewhat difficult to categorize this genre. It is mostly fantasy/fiction I suppose, since Robin Hood has never been proven to have existed, but otherwise it might be alternative history. Certainly Greenwood Forest and Druids existed, as did priories, convents, and the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church.
The problem I have with previous versions of Robin Hood, mostly created by Hollywood, is their ‘prettification’ of 12th-century England, with turreted castles (15th-century or later), impeccable clothes, and as one Hollywood Robin Hood put it, “Unlike other Robin Hoods, I speak with an English accent,”[Robin Hood: Men in tights]—albeit, a modern one.
Fortunately, this author has captured a good part of the dark and primitive atmosphere, which was circa-Crusade England, as well as the mix of old and new religions that existed at the time, and this scores well with me. After all, a period novel should be first and foremost true to the period.
I also like the plot, once again because it is consistent with the period. Rob is the son of a respected (yeoman) forester, but at the same time he is more than that. He is, in fact, a ‘crown prince” in the Druid religion—a future manifestation of the ‘Horned God.’
Gamelyn, his unlikely love interest, is the minor son of an earl, and a hidebound Catholic, but it is Rob’s simple nobility that eventually evens the playing field between them. Moreover, it is Rob who has the courage to question the horned god’s interpretation of the future.
This is a gutsy twist on a major classic that works. Not only that, but because of the realism, I believe it a step forward. A special mention as well for the absolutely stunning cover art. Five bees.
Wow. This is the kind of book you get lost in. The kind that sucks you so completely into its world that you forget about everything in your own. This is the kind of book you never want to end, but can't help racing to finish. The kind of book that makes you rethink every other 5-star rating you have ever given. Because this is the shit. This is the real deal.
But be forewarned, you will need to go on to book two immediately. So call in sick, take some vacation days, do whatever you have to do to get these books read. Now.
Ken Follett's amazing "Pillars of the Earth" taught us about life in a cathedral town in the middle ages. J. Tullos Henning (another coy name for a female writer of gay male romance) gives us a remarkably deft and literate window into that same medieval world - this time focusing on the social, cultural and religious context of the English middle ages in which Robin Hood was born.
But here, Robin of Loxley is a teenage druidic forest king and Maid Marion is his big sister - and he falls in love with Gamelyn Boundys, youngest son of the local Frankish nobleman. The old, pre-Christian ways have not died out in this part of England, but the increasingly shrill and paranoid Christian hierarchy has got them in their sights. Pagan and Christian, peasant and noble, bowman and swordsman. A strange fate seems to hover over Rob and Gamelyn, although whether love or death will win is in shadow.
Henning is great with language, and the various little linguistic anachronisms that find their way into this complex, gripping text are easily shrugged off (did they have rubbish tips in the 1100s?). What's better, all of the secondary characters are ably drawn and come to life on the page, offering the reader a rich character study from a time as alien as another world.
The reason I did not give this five stars is that no book this long and this involving should end in a cliff-hanger. The highly emotional finale seemed rushed, and, in my opinion, should not have ended where it did. The events were foreshadowed, but there was no need to trick us into reading a sequel by leaving us gasping on the last page. Really, we would have bought the second book, "Shirewode," anyway.
I wanted very much to love this book. Queer fantasy retellings of folk tales might be my favourite genre of anything, ever. However, my enjoyment of this book was very much hampered by the prose. The phonetic accent for many of the main characters was at best distracting; at worst, it hampered the clarity of the exposition. The narration was often hard to follow for the same reason. The author was trying for a sort of old-timey narration, but it did not work. This book needed a stringent line edit to clean up a lot of ambiguous phrasing, superfluous words, and odd word choices. It's not just aesthetic, either--the odd narration undercut the establishment of the mythology that undergirded the conflict in Rob and Gamelyn's relationship. As a consequence, the mythic element lacked punch, and the rest of the interpersonal and social conflict was not well developed enough to carry the story effectively. The result was a lot of back and forth waffling that the text was telling me was coming together through fate, but I couldn't buy it. Two stars for effort, but ultimately disappointing.
If you love epic fantasy, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. J Tullos Hennig’s writing is nothing less than eloquent, her storytelling nothing less than stellar. This is the sort of book that makes me fall in love with words and language all over again. It’s a story that drew me in from page one and didn’t cut me loose, even when there were no more words left to read.