Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead --Day 3

To my way of thinking, Stephen Lawhead used a unique set of tools in writing the second book of the King Raven Trilogy, Scarlet.

Here's the opening, first:
So, now. One day soon they hang me for a rogue. Fair enough. I have earned it a hundred times over, I reckon, and that's leaving a lot of acreage unexplored. The jest of it is, the crime for which I swing is the one offence I never did do. The sheriff will have it that I raised rebellion against the king.

I didn't.

Oh, there's much I've done that some would as soon count treason. For a fact, I et more of the king's venison than the king has et bread, and good men have lost their heads to royal pikes for far less; but in all my frolics I never breathed a disloyal word against the crown, nor tried to convince any man, boy, horse, or dog to match his deeds to mine. Ah, but dainties such as these are of no concern when princes have their tender feelings ruffled. It is a traitor they want to punish, not a thief. The eatin' o' Red William's game is a matter too trifling—more insult than crime—and it's a red-handed rebel they need. Too much has happened in the forests of the March and too much princely pride hangs in the balance to be mincing fair about a rascal poaching a few soft-eyed deer.

Until that ill-fated night, Will Scarlet ran with King Raven and his band of merry thieves. Ran fast and far, I did, let me tell you. Faster and farther than all the rest, and that's saying something. Here's the gist: it's the Raven Hood they want and cannot get. So, ol' Will is for the jump.

Poor luck, that. No less, no more.

They caught me crest and colours. My own bloody fault. There's none to blame but the hunter when he's caught in his own snare. I ask no pardon. A willing soul, I flew field and forest with King Raven and his flock. Fine fun it was, too, until they nabbed me in the pinch. Even so, if it hadn't a' been for a spear through my leg bone they would not a' got me either.

So, here we sit, my leg and me, in a dank pit beneath Count de Braose's keep. I have a cell—four walls of stone and a damp dirt floor covered with rotting straw and rancid rushes. I have a warden named Guibert, or Gulbert or some such, who brings me food and water when he can be bothered to remember, and unchains me from time to time so I can stretch the cramps a bit and wash my wound. I also have my very own priest, a young laggard of a scribe who comes to catch my wild tales and pin them to the pages of a book to doom us all.

So...a good portion of the story is told like this, in Will's first-person point-of-view as he tells his tale to Odo, his scribe. As long as Will has more to say that might interest the Count, he gets to live. And so he talks. And Odo interrupts often enough that the reader doesn't forget that this is the main frame for the novel. Other parts are told in third-person, parts of the story that Will apparently doesn't know at the time.

I think it's a risky way to bounce about in a story, but somehow Lawhead pulls it off. It took me quite awhile to get into this novel, though. If I hadn't enjoyed Hood so much...and wasn't committed to reading Scarlet for this book tour, I'm not sure I would have stayed with the story long enough to get immersed. As it turns out, the story was well worth it. And I'm looking forward to reading Tuck when it is released.

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