Brutal, Bloody, Brilliant
Rise of the Wolf by Steven A. McKay
Reviewed by Stuart S. Laing
The Rise of the Wolf is the third in the marvellous Forest Lord series by Steven A. McKay and delivers, once again, a solid, engrossing read that hits you like a punch in the guts! When an author takes on such a well-known tale featuring a character such as Robin Hood he is either brave, or foolish. He has to bring something to the tale that breathes fresh life into the story. Something that sets it apart from all the previous tales, or it is simply a pot of reheated left-overs. Thankfully Steven has given a whole new spin on the man with the bow. Those who have read the previous books know to expect to find themselves in Yorkshire, deep in the leafy expanse of Barnsdale Forest rather than the green trees of Sherwood. The change in location, a nod to the earliest ballads of where Robin lived, gives plenty of scope for the author to explore new avenues for Robin and his band of merry (and miserable) men. This is something which readers should be grateful for.
Here we have a version of Robin Hood probably closer to how a real outlaw would have lived than that familiar from TV and movie adaptations. While Kevin Costner’s portrayal looked more like a 90’s AOR music video star, who liked nothing more than relaxing in a trendy bar sipping pinot grigio and listening to George Michael, McKay’s Robin Hood is the sort of man who kicks open the door of a rough pub, orders a pint of real ale in a dirty glass, then cranks the juke-box up to 11 and blasts out Ace of Spades till the windows shatter!
He is so much the better for that!
Rise of the Wolf is a full-blooded, rip roaring adventure from start to finish that delivers a series of tremendous set-pieces. From ambushes and betrayal, to love and redemption, the story gallops along at a break-neck pace that leaves you breathless. Characters, old and new, blend together seamlessly as we join Robin as he faces his greatest danger thus far. Sir Guy of Gisbourne, after being horrifically disfigured by Robin in the previous book, is out for blood. Already dangerous, his injury has only made him all the more reckless in his quest for vengeance. Aided by the vile turn-coat Matt Groves, nothing, and no’one, is safe from their relentless pursuit to see Robin, and his men, die as painfully as possible.
This is a story for adults, the action and language is as robust as we would expect from a band of outlaws, but it is not all doom and gloom. The book is laced throughout with a wonderfully dark humour that will have you smiling one moment and grimacing the next. The Sheriff’s tournament designed to lure Robin out of hiding with the prize of an arrow of solid silver had me laughing out loud at the hissed conversation between the Sheriff and Gisbourne as each enjoys the others’ discomfort in turn. Still though, we have to remember how cruel life was then. There will be tears when a much loved character falls prey to the Raven’s cruelty before the end.
The focus on Robin’s family is also a welcome addition to the scenes around the outlaws’ campfire, and the developing character of Robin’s young sister, Marjorie, is one I hope we see more of in the final instalment of the series when it comes along. From being the runt of the litter she will grow to become a vitally important factor at a crucial point later in the book.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and one I will enjoy again time after time in the future. Now we have to endure the wait for the fourth, and final, instalment which promises to wrap up the series in what, I am sure, will hold just as many surprises as the ending of Rise of the Wolf delivered.
US – http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Wolf-Forest-Lord-Book-ebook/dp/B0131K97JA/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1438303741&sr=1-4&keywords=steven+a+mckay
UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0131K97JA?keywords=Rise%20of%20the%20Wolf%20(The%20Forest%20Lord%20Book%203)&qid=1438303823&ref_=sr_1_1&s=digital-text&sr=1-1