Tuesday, May 7, 2013

{A Kelly Coffee Review} Greenwode by J Tullos Hennig

Title: Greenwode
Autor:J Tullos Hennig
Series: Book One of The Wode
Genre: Historical, High Fantasy, slash
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

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 sees whom it will claim: young Rob of Loxley. Rob’s mother and father, a yeoman forester and a wisewoman, have raised Rob and his sister, Marion, under a solemn duty: to take their parents’ places in the Old Religion as the manifestations of the Horned Lord and the Lady Huntress.

But when Gamelyn Boundys, son of a powerful nobleman, is injured in the forest, he and Rob begin a friendship that challenges both duty and ideology: Gamelyn is a devout follower of the Catholic Church. Rob understands the divide between peasant and noble all too well. And the old druid has foreseen that Gamelyn is destined to be Rob’s sworn enemy—to fight in a blood sacrifice for the greenwode's Maiden.

In a risky bid for happiness, Rob dares the Horned Lord to reinterpret the ancient rites—to allow Rob to take Gamelyn as a lover instead of a rival. But in the eyes of Gamelyn’s church, lust is a sin—and sodomy is unthinkable.

Disclaimer: This is an adult gay romance novel. That means sex between men. Don't like don't read--though in this case it would be a crying shame to pass the book up.

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.

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