Today I’m going to cover the “not so good”, the “good”, and the “genius”.
Notice that there is not a “bad” list, as I found little to dislike in this volume, and much to satisfy.
Reading it was like a long, cool drink on a hot afternoon. So, if you haven’t read TUCK, or the first two books in the King Raven series (HOOD & SCARLET), do so without delay!
But — be warned: SPOILERS BELOW!!
The Viewpoint — Stephen just wasn’t able to get quite as deep into Tuck’s brain (writing in 3rd person) as he was with Scarlet (writing in 1st person). Stephen has an incredible knack for 1st person, and I think he could have used it here quite effectively. At least he could have mixed the two, like he did in Scarlet, attempting to give us the best of both: multiple story-lines, yet a closer perspective.
A One Line Problem — This line took me right out of the book and into “Why’d the author write that” mode. It was on page 397, and it said:
Merian’s face crumpled.
Maybe I’ve seen too many horror movies in my younger days (B.C.), but When I pictured this, it wasn’t what the author intended.
The good news is that this is about the only place in the entire book where this happened to me. In general I stayed in the story and my make-believe world was quite safe from being popped.
The flip side of this is that it is a clear warning to me to be careful not to write something like that in my own book. All too easy. All to easy.
The Good !
Tuck — he lives up to his name, always thinking about food & ale, and this adds to his character a lot.
The ale might offend some who are teetotalers, but I must say, as a teetotaler myself, I was not offended.
Perhaps my summer in Mexico City puts me in good stead. You see, the safest thing to drink down there is something bottled (generally cola, though I don’t touch that now since its a non-food). In Mexico City, you just can’t drink tap water. A drinking fountain? Forget it. And I assume, hopefully rightly, that the people of the middle-ages have a similar attitude. If its been brewed, its probably safe to drink.
Also, the people that get drunk in the book are shown in a negative light. Even Rhi-Bran abstains so he can keep his head clear.
Bernard de Neufmarche — Although I wasn’t quite sure if I believed that a Norman nobleman and his wife could find themselves marrying off their daughter to the Welsh, who they originally (and falsely) considered barbaric, I did find it refreshing that Lawhead shows “the middle ground” between Norman snootiness and the Welsh good guys.
In this, de Neufmarche represents the humanizing of the Normans, the breaking of stereotypes that could arise from reading a book like TUCK. And this gives the book depth and thoughtfulness.
It also shows us a postive view of the Welsh from the outside.
The Genius !!
Count Rexindo — Besides me having to suspend my belief a little to imagine the Earl never seeing through the disguise until it was too late, I thoroughly enjoyed this section, and waited with baited breath to find out how it was going to turn out.
Gruffyd’s reaction when he saw the Earl was classic, and helped the Rexindo episode conclude with a bang.
The Ending — Not what I expected. When Tuck took King William’s confession, I was bowled over laughing. But when this eventually resulted in a peaceful ending and no bloodshed, I was disappointed.
My disappointment was because I was expecting to read a good battle scene. I was all geared up for … for blood. But then I had to ask myself the question: Why?
Why did I desire to read about bloodshed, when peace as well as Bran’s throne being restored was the original goal. I had to look inward, and I found in my own sin I wanted to gloat over the King paying for his sin.
In short, I wanted to read about the heavy emotions of men dying and facing death.
And then I understood: Tuck was a man of peace. He always had been, and it was through that unwavering love of peace that great good came. Many lives were saved. Bran was given his throne securely. And I was happy. It was neither what I expected, nor what I wanted, but it was good.
A good ending in the truest sense of the word.
Tomorrow in Part 3
Come on back, as I’ll be exploring how Lawhead fits eternal issues into TUCK. My most important insights will be in this upcoming blog entry.