I must admit to being enthralled by Venables' Guy of Gisburne novels. He's taken the legend of Robin Hood and turned it on its head. At every step! So what is the truth? I've read so many versions and watched so many movies. In fact Prince of Thieves was screening just as I was reading this. But these--the Guy of Gisburne novels are my far and away favourites.
We have legend and tradition and the need for heroes--but heroes can be used in different ways. As King Richard says to Guy, "I could make use of Hood. Use his legend to bolster my own. And I shall. But I am a practical man. That legend will be easier to control when he’s dead.”
Guy replies, "Legends prosper best when their hero is absent." Cutting both ways--the legend of Richard and that of Hood. So Guy is charged with killing Hood and his leaders. How cunning is the plot that Richard has a mind to set in motion. A masterful stroke by Venables! Machiavellian indeed!
Guy forms a team from those we've met before to hunt the Hood of this series--not the legendary Hood we know, but the vicious, cunning and cruel man he really is. Lady Mélisande, Asif ibn Salah, a resentful and angry Galfrid, and even Tancred are part of that select group.
The elements of Robin Hood are all here--Marion, the Prioress, the loyal followers--but all so different from the popular legend. Hood's trusted companions are so much less than what we love, and so much more vicious. That belief that sees Hood as the man of the people, the Christlike saviour is reduced to a despicable reality here. Hood is a man with his own dark purposes.
For Guy, vengeance will take a different form. At one point Hood says, 'when I die, that is when I am truly born.' At that moment, the true revenge that Guy has in mind is given voice.
At the last Guy decides that, 'the best possible revenge upon Hood—[is] not for him to be lost to posterity, but to become its servant, and an agent for all the good things that he never once believed.' But the story to this moment is paved with hardship, is emotional harrowing and so engaging.
A wonderful novel that brings to the close a thoughtful and fascinating series I have thoroughly enjoyed.