May CSFF Blog Tour, Day 2: Tuck, by Stephen R. Lawhead

It took me awhile to warm up to Tuck. I think part of it was coming into the story on the third book of a trilogy, having to get oriented as the tale of Rhi Bran and his band of outlaws was building to a climax.

The Robin Hood legend is familiar and comfortable for most of us, I think, but Lawhead throws it akilter by setting it in an historical Wales with a Robin who’s more than just a dashing redistributor of wealth. He’s a dispossessed prince, a man who should be king, and he’s carrying a load of emotional baggage, not the least of which is the death of his parents at the hands of Norman raiders.

Great, I thought. A brooding, orphaned aristocrat who runs around in the dark fighting evildoers, wearing a scary costume. Bruce Wayne in the year 1000. I wasn’t liking him much at the beginning.

Fortunately, I kept reading, mostly because of Friar Tuck. He’s an unlikely hero–short, round, bowlegged, and not particularly handsome. We experience most of the story from his point of view. Far from the jolly, insubstantial pseudo-priest of the cinema, Tuck is a man of deep faith and simple convictions. He’s equally at home offering blessings to poor families and breaking the heads of enemies foolish enough to underestimate him. He is at turns brilliantly insightful and childishly naive. He wants nothing more than to live at peace, tending a little flock of country parishioners, but his conviction of the rightness of Bran’s cause leads him perpetually into danger, a situation he accepts with weary patience and good nature. It helped my understanding and appreciation of Bran when I began to see him through Tuck’s eyes.

Tuck has faith that God will bring Bran and his followers safely through their war against impossible odds and grant them victory. His faith is ultimately vindicated–victory is secured not primarily through force of arms, or shrewd alliances, but through a change of heart. The peacemakers don’t have an easy time of it in this story, but in the end, they are clearly proven right, and blessed. It’s a powerful message.

This is a character-driven story. Lawhead doesn’t spin a lot of purple prose in blow-by-blow analysis of battles or breathtaking travelogues of the Welsh countryside, though there are some nice action scenes and enough imagery to provide a decent mental anchor for medieval Wales. We watch Rhi Bran’s transformation from a bandit leader to a worthy king, with the help of wise advisors and loyal friends. Lawhead also shines a welcome spotlight on some of the supporting players who don’t get a lot of press, like Will Scarlett and Alan a Dale, as well as a few we’ve not met before. I was particularly intrigued by Angharad, the shaman/wisewoman who is Bran’s principal advisor and mentor. It’s unclear whether she is a converted Druid or someone who has discovered the one true God via His witness revealed in nature, but she illustrates the fact that despite its embrace of Christianity, Britain was at this time only recently emerged from paganism, and the memories and influence of the old ways were still strong. Even Tuck defers to her authority at times.

Tuck is a good read, with strong spiritual and moral themes. I enjoyed it, and probably would have enjoyed it more had I read the other two volumes of the trilogy first. I’ll probably go back for them at some point, but Tuck actually left me more eager to check out Patrick, Lawhead’s novel about the Irish saint.

Tomorrow, I’ll trade slings and arrows with the other folks on the tour, and perhaps buy myself a few vowels, but for now, please stop by their websites for more reviews of Tuck.

Stephen R. Lawhead’s Web Site

Buy the Book at

Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Keanan Brand
Rachel Briard
Grace Bridges
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Alex Field
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Terri Main
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Epic Rat
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson

>>This review is based upon a copy of the book provided to me free of charge by the publisher, a courtesy I appreciate, but which does not guarantee my recommendation. I strive to evaluate every book I review purely on its intrinsic merits.<<

8 thoughts on “May CSFF Blog Tour, Day 2: Tuck, by Stephen R. Lawhead

  1. Patrick is a really good book too. Of course. It’s darker than King Raven in places, but always comes back to the light. I wasn’t familiar with the known legends of Patrick before I read it, which did leave me confused at first, because there are some things you need to know as they are never mentioned in the book but taken as a given.

    Anyway, great review! Do read the other two books if you can. They explain more about what Angharad is all about.

  2. Bruce Wayne! How funny! Since I had read the other two books, I knew the beginning of the story. I wondered what someone would think of it, starting with Book 3.

    Angharad’s faith isn’t explained, as far as I remember. It’s rock solid tho. Also I think she might be several hundred years old. Do you?

  3. Me, too, along with Phyllis–I wondered what someone coming in without having read the previous books would think. Interesting to read your responses, Fred.

    Will Scarlet was the point of view character in the second book, Scarlet, and Mr. Lawhead gave him a wonderful voice. I suspect you’d like that one a lot.


  4. Good review, I loved all of them, but I too liked our unlikely hero of Tuck. He is my type of hero… someone not handsome by conventional means, but comfortable with who he is. In the book, he is the spiritual leader (along with Angharad…that part was confusin), and truly loves his flock, but is willing to take up arms to defend them should any harm come close to them. I think you captured this quite well. Good job! ~Becky

  5. Thanks, Becky. Yeah, I like the idea of a shepherd who’s willing to go out there and knock out a few wolves instead of sitting in the sheep pen crying about how all his lambs are getting eaten.

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