“Love is the burning point of life, and since all life is sorrowful, so is love. The stronger the love, the more the pain. Love itself is pain, you might say—the pain of being truly alive.” ― Joseph Campbell
I love when the books I read come to life in my imagination, not in a way that I can relate to and incorporate into any sort of tangible, real-world definition. These are the books that I don’t merely read but experience, the books that transport me to another place and time, to another realm that can only exist on the page but which come to life in the mind’s eye, like a moving picture of sights and sounds, scents and colors. These are the books that linger on the taste buds as you savor the words the author uses to bind together the threads of legend. There are some books that become unforgettable, characters who become beloved, books that make a mark and leave an impression behind, and J Tullos Hennig’s Shirewode is one of those books. It is the continuing saga of Rob of Loxley, his sister Marion, and Gamelyn Boundys de Blyth…
And yet it is not, because the characters in this novel are not the ones I left behind in Greenwode. They are made new by the deception and vengeance and cruelty that has transformed them like the phoenix risen from the ashes of destruction, and their story is one of survival and of sacrifice. The call to action has been heard, and now, through this journey of heroes, we must wait for the ultimate boon.
Rob of Loxley is no longer. He now carries the mantle of Robyn Hood, the Hooded One, the Horned Lord; he is the king of the Shire Wode; he is an outlaw, the leader of a band of outlaws who steal from the rich to give to the poor; he mourns the loss of what was, feels what is, dreams of what may be. He is the hunter who will become the hunted, branded the usurper, the thief of a power he has not earned.
Gamelyn is gone, in spirit if not body. He has become a holy warrior of the White Christ, a Knight Templar who has turned to the barren deserts to wage war against the infidels, or perhaps for the infidels, depending upon which side one fights and in which god one believes. The boy who loved Rob of Loxley, the boy who hated himself for loving Rob of Loxley, no longer exists. He has become Guy de Gisbourne and he is an assassin, the assassin who will become hunter, sharp as the blade he wields, his skills honed on pain and the whetstone of unintentional betrayal, on the loss of the love he so desperately didn’t want to feel.
Marion is lost not in body but in mind. She has been groomed by the enemy to turn away from her heathen ways and to serve the one true Christ. Rob has been left for dead, Gamelyn has been spirited away…not that she remembers because the Lady’s voice and Marion’s memories of the past have gone silent as the grave, and she is being held by a mortal enemy disguised in a cloak of false virtue and self-righteous authority.
Robyn, Guy, and Marion—they are the trinity. They are the three—the Horned Lord, the Oakbrother, and the Lady—the Winterking, the Summerlord, and the Maiden—back to back, nothing will stand against them. But that doesn’t mean the fight will be without danger or consequence. There are enemies without and discord within. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. How does that apply to enemies and lovers? The stronger the love, the more the pain. Shirewode is both love and pain. It is a slow walk through a quiet forest. It is a tumultuous tumble through danger and deception. It is heart-stopping action. It is a love story for which I hope there can be a happy ending.
Epic is such an overused word, but that’s what this series is. It is bigger than the confines of the page. It is grand and glorious and a feast for anyone who loves the mythological adventure of heroes and heroines, enemies and villains, the battle of good and evil, the tales of those who know that without endings there can be no beginnings. Just as without beginnings, there can be no journey, no trials, no foes to best, no need for heroes, nothing to fight for and nothing to gain. J. Tullos Hennig’s storytelling is dense with imagery and lush with the obvious love of the legends around which her artistry pays perfect compliment.
The Wode series, without a doubt, is well on its way to making my list of Top Picks for 2013.
**Be sure to check back tomorrow, as J Tullos Hennig will be our guest, and there’ll be a giveaway!**
Reviewed by: Lisa