Tuck: King Raven Trilogy III
In Stephen Lawhead’s final book of the King Raven series, we lose the voice of Will Scarlet and return to Lawhead’s omnipotent narrative. However, by this time, all the characters are well known (unless you’re one of those odd-ducks who like to pick up a book at the end of a series without having first read the other books… in which case, I really don’t understand what the joy is in reading like that…). The focus of the novel is the role of Friar Tuck, who is characterized as a devout, fat, smelly, short man. Romantic, right?
“Tuck” takes an interesting turn right at the beginning where King William II (called William Rufus) contemplates how much he will have to pay for the Church to pray for his father’s sins as well as his own. The Church seems no more than a huge con to get people to give them money (even the king does it) so they can spend less time in purgatory. More money given to the Church equals more clergy praying for your soul meaning you will get to heaven sooner. The abbots and bishops in the novel all seem to be grasping for as much wealth as they can without much care for the actual spiritual guidance they ought to be providing. There are, of course, notable exceptions… and then there’s Tuck.
Tuck dispenses freely with spiritual advice and deadly attacks with his walking stick. He encourages Rhi Bran to seek peace while aiding in raids against the ruling villains. He sanctions lying under disguise for the greater good of returning the lands to the rightful Welsh. In short, Tuck is the craziest man of the church in the entire series! However, his real, honest faith and genuine relationship with God make him a brilliant counselor for the young Rhi Bran, and the capers and intrigues that they embark on come to a glorious and satisfying conclusion.
In addition to the fantastic story, Stephen Lawhead’s son, Ross Lawhead, wrote “The Ballad of Rhi Bran”, which is sprinkled throughout the novel between chapters and serves as a very authentic-feeling frame to the narrative as a whole. Having recently finished a class in Chaucer, I really enjoyed the familiar cadence of the medieval ballad.
So, reader friends, are you intrigued yet? What on earth are you waiting for? The Great Guarding Wood awaits! Off ye, to the bookstore! And tell me what you think when you finish!