Author: J. Tullos Hennig
Publisher: DSP Publications
Rating: 4.5 stars
Type: Novel in a Series
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Robyn Hood is the undisputed ruler of the wild, green Wode. Reunited with his sister Marion and his lover Gamelyn, Robyn and his band of outlaws seek to raise the Ceugant—the magical trine of the Old Religion—against the tyranny of Church and Crown. Yet their forest kingdom is roiling with conflict. Marion has been made welcome, but old shackles and new fears hamper her true promise. Gamelyn is torn between oaths of heart and head—and the outlaws never let him forget he was but recently Guy of Gisbourne, defrocked Templar and Robyn’s fiercest enemy.
When a lone traveler is waylaid on the road, a common occurrence quickly proves uncommon. Knight and Maiden, Archer and Men, all are conscripted to aid a Queen’s—and ultimately a King’s—ransom. For beneath winter’s chill is awakening the deepest of magics, and there are those who seek the power of Robyn Hood and his Shire Wode for their own ends.
Review: Winterwode is the third book in a series which must be read in order.
This book – indeed this series- is a marvel of writing. Every time I was forced to break from reading it I had to shake myself. My living room is a far cry from Robyn’s mystical Wode you see – and his Wode is exactly where I was transported to every moment I was reading.
So much is special about this book. The research involved in, the loving care with which the language, settings and characters are portrayed, the careful pacing of events and awakenings. It’s definitely a book to immerse oneself in, to traverse the pages along with the extraordinary characters.
I found Winterwode to be a transitional, quieter sort of book in the series. Many questions get sorted, and many more arise. There are significantly less action scenes than were present in Shirewode, which gave it an overall slower pace. Through the Winter season during which this book takes place, we see the characters discover much about themselves, through close interaction, reflection and introspection. For a while during the first few chapters I was wondering where things were going, when was something more substantive going to “happen”. I needn’t have worried, for happen they did! Many things within this world are not quite what they seem and many are achingly exactly as they seem. Changes occur mostly in the hearts and minds of Robyn, Gamelyn, Marion and company.
This series has historical basis on knowledge regarding church and religious leaders we have of the time period, yet the author has created a fascinating, multi layered fantasy world unto itself within the realm of Robin Hood lore. The mystical, magical and ethereal elements are very much front and center. The Forest Lord and Lady loom large. The connection Robyn, Marion and Gamelyn have with them is ever-present. There is an on-going undercurrent of repression and burdens placed on the common folk vs how the royals and church leaders live and are treated is apparent.
At the beginning of Winterwode, Robyn is found to be pleased with outcome of recent events (I won’t spoiler for those who haven’t read yet). His loyal group is reunited, and best of all, Gamelyn is back at his side. They are all ensconced in the beloved forest where Robyn alternately finds peace as well as questions emanating from the Forest Lord. I so enjoy the deep spirituality conveyed in this story. The accord Robyn and his band share with the land. The subtle and not so subtle confusion and mixed signals that were swirling about amongst the entire group added to the air of anticipation and mystique. There was quite a bit of push and pull taking place among the group.
Gamelyn is caught in the middle of this mystique and yes, trepidation. Suffering from injuries both physical and emotional – including nightmares and loss of temper – he is afraid for himself and his effect on those he loves. Being a trained Templar Knight, he is torn regarding his obligations to the order and his deep bond with Robyn – and the Wode itself. A bond which is undeniable stronger than ever – despite the years the two men spent apart, and despite his time away from the pulse of the forest. Much exploration and depth is lent to these struggles, both with himself and with his interactions with Robyn, Marion and Will in particular. Gamelyn ultimately finds himself returning to Temple Hirst, out of necessity if not out of fealty. Marion finds herself questioning her role in staying with Robyn and the other men, but is steadfast that the Lord and Lady will eventually allow her path as the Maiden to be revealed. These detailed and differing interpersonal dynamics were fascinating to follow. The fluidity, the growth displayed. The overall power struggles relating to convictions. Robyn keeps a close watch, for his loved ones have enough potential threats from the outside without needing to worry about ones from within the fold.
The relative peace found by the group is short lived as struggles with their enemies both old and new leap to the forefront again. What good can come of Gamelyn returning to Temple Hirst? Will he remain permanently or will it be temporary? Can they trust his Commander, Hubert de Gisborough? Time will tell.
Although not a cliffhanger, the ending bodes heavily of the “stay tuned” variety. Never fear, at least two more books are planned in the series. Bring on book 4 – Summerwode.
* The cover of this book is absolutely stunning, and captures the essence and mood of the depicted characters. Beautiful work.