Title: Greenwode, Shirewode
Author: J. Tullos Hennig
Publisher: DSP Publications
Release Date: 2013
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Page Count: 370, 390
Reviewed by: LenaLena
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
The Hooded One. The one to breathe the dark and light and dusk between….
When an old druid foresees this harbinger of chaos, he also glimpses its future. A peasant from Loxley will wear the Hood and, with his sister, command a last, desperate bastion of Old Religion against New. Yet a devout nobleman’s son could well be their destruction—Gamelyn Boundys, whom Rob and Marion have befriended. Such acquaintance challenges both duty and destiny. The old druid warns that Rob and Gamelyn will be cast as sworn enemies, locked in timeless and symbolic struggle for the greenwode’s Maiden.
Instead, a defiant Rob dares his Horned God to reinterpret the ancient rites, allow Rob to take Gamelyn as lover instead of rival. But in the eyes of Gamelyn’s Church, sodomy is unthinkable… and the old pagan magics are an evil that must be vanquished.
Greenwode and Shirewode aren’t historical novels as much as they are reinterpretations of medieval legends. Much like Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley was a reinterpretation of the King Arthur stories, this one tells the story of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. In fact, these books reminded me strongly of Mists of Avalon (although I may be remembering incorrectly, because it has been about 3 decades since I read that last, but it sure made an impression at the time), because they share some of the same themes. One of them being the tensions between Old Religion and New Religion (meaning Druids vs Christians. Just letting you know the Christians aren’t coming off real well in this book, in case that is an issue for you) and the other one being Them Meddling Gods. The latter is a theme I don’t particularly care for. I tend to find it mildly annoying when gods are talking directly to or through the characters in the book, but I realize that is a personal pet peeve that I have developed by reading too many Fantasy novels. It likely won’t bother many other readers.
Tullos Hennig does a great job recreating a fictional Medieval world where the tensions between peasants and gentry, and pagans and Christians, get embodied in the characters of Rob of Loxley, his sister Marion and noble’s son Gamelyn Boundys. The story starts when Rob and Gamelyn are but lads and start an unlikely (and frowned upon) friendship, and builds slowly as the boys reach their teens and their respective duties start pulling them in different directions. In addition, the gods have plans for these boys, but Rob has plans of his own…
This was a (mostly) immersive read for me, where I got lost in the book and couldn’t wait to get back when real life pulled me out. I was glad I didn’t have to wait for Shirewode to come out, because the end of Greenwode does not leave anyone in a happy place. The language is beautiful. The dialog sounds old timey and the peasants have accents, but they’re clear enough that ESL readers should not have problems with that. There are a couple of anachronisms, but eh… shrugs.
As I came towards the end of Shirewode, though, a couple of things started to niggle. The first was the aforementioned meddlesome gods, who really start butting into the story to an excessive degree by the end. The other was that the language, for me, started slipping into overly purple prose. Now, I have a famously low tolerance for that, as well, so your mileage may vary.
Nevertheless, I am very much looking forward to starting Winterwode soon (book 3, but first book in a new trilogy. Greenwode and Shirewode are technically a duology). Immersive reads are rare for me in the m/m genre, so these books were a very pleasant exception.
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