Review: Tuck by Stephen R. Lawhead

This month the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour is featuring Tuck by Stephen R. Lawhead, the third book in the King Raven trilogy. Like all book threes, it struggles to arise to the challenge of standing alone, and compared to it’s own race, does fairly well, though it slides dangerously close to that zone where new readers still feel like latecomers who’ve missed most of the story (because they have) and existing fans are going, “yawn, I know this already,” though I’d say most of the recap was necessary.

Lawhead’s craft is a tad old fashioned for my tastes, and some readers may have difficulty weeding through some of the long paragraphs. His fans, however, probably won’t care that Lawhead has yet to realize that thought tagging is intrusive and unnecessary, or that it appears he hates the word “said.”

What  readers will get is a romp through the welsh forests and lots of medieval warfare and politics, labeled as fantasy mainly because it’s his take on Robin Hood, and a rather inventive one that should still satisfy fans of the legend. What they won’t get much of is Christian content, besides the good guys praying and the bad guys trying to buy their way out of hell (literally.)

Personally, it disturbs me when I see the good guys practicing deception and getting away with it, as if God somehow blesses what he despises. A big portion of the plot actually turns on Bran (Robin  Hood) disguising himself and entering an enemy’s fortress under false pretenses. While it’s tempting to applaud his genius and cleverness, our God  hates lying. Deception is the domain of the evil one and should never be celebrated by God’s people.

In real life, such ungodly, immoral tactics are not at all a good idea if  you’re wanting God’s blessing on your campaign, as Bran professes and desperately needed.

That said, deception is a common feature of Robin Hood portrayals, though Lawhead crosses the line a bit on the thieving part. Some Robins Hoods plunder the thieves and give the loot back to the owner, which is morally defensible, but I can’t say everything stolen in Tuck falls in that category. For instance, at one point they rob the Abbey supplying enemy troops of their stores, which is not morally defensible.

In general, stealing from person A to give it to person C for no better reason than Person A is rich and Person C dirt poor is immoral–even when it’s practiced by our modern-day elected government officials. Most of the guilty politicians, I might add, have even more money than Person A and aren’t opening their own coffers.