The Hood

By Lavie Tidhar

The Hood, a novel by Lavie Tidhar
Book details Books in the series About the author

The legend of Robin Hood has changed over the years. I know it is hard to believe but he was not always imagined as a mullet haired Kevin Costner trying to save Nottingham with a dodgy English accent. One element of the story that has fallen out of fashion is Robin Hood’s links with the world of Faeries. Lavie Tidhar brings back all the magic in The Hood and manages to write the closest thing to punk fantasy as you will find. 

The Hood is not a man as such, but a presence in the forest. There has always been a Hood living in Sherwood Forest snubbing their nose at the Lords and Gentry that have tried to tame the outlaw. This is a tale not of Robin Hood, but of a period when religion begins to dominate over magic. Can the folk that live deep within the heartwood of Sherwood Forest survive the unerring expansion of man?  

I have never read anything quite like The Hood, it is a book about Robin Hood that does not have the man in it for the first quarter and even then, the version that most people are aware of only comes to life towards the end. This book is more about the unseen war between the Farie folk and Man that takes place in and around the city of Nottingham. It is an uneasy read in places, which is fitting as the lands of magic and reality bleed into one another. 

The story is set over a century and many well-known characters such as Will Scarlet, Maid Marion and Friar Tuck are touched by the forest, so live much longer lives than the norm. Each gets their moment to shine as we discover how they made their way to Nottingham. Each story is bloody and grim, but also fantastical. Tidhar has a low opinion of the world in Hood’s time, but it feels very realistic. Life is cheap and those without money need to do what is necessary to survive. None of the Merry Men are nice people and it is interesting to read a warts and all portrayal of them. 

These tales read like short stories and are all grounded in a grim realism, but the book is never far from some magic. Each member is touched, and they see things that many other people cannot. One thread that comes up repeatedly is the power of state and religion over the common people and the Faerie Folk. There is common ground between the poor and the disenfranchised. They should work together, rather than be suspicious of one another. The true enemy are the powerful. 

The Hood feels very punk rock. It never settles down into one thing. It is a type of low fantasy, but also an alternative version of history. Sherwood Forest is a magical place that grows a fungus. This fungus works its way into the city of Nottingham and its inhabitants. Soon the residents are living in a Twilight world of magic and the real, and they are unaware. It feels that book itself is infected with this hallucinogenic fungus. The narration blends between what is real and what is false. Characters may mention unexpectedly that they are in a novel or know of The Lord of the Rings. These things make no sense, but in The Hood, they do as Tidhar has made anything possible. 

The Hood is a book full of misdirection that can be uncomfortable at times, but that is what makes it such an interesting and fun book. Tidhar plays with the format and the reader. In this way the author is just continuing the legacy of the Robin Hood myth. It is a tale that has developed and warped over the past 1000 years and Tidhar is rightfully doing something to ensure it does not get stuck in the present stodgy version that we all know and love. What is boils down to is that Robin Hood is a little bit countryside and Lavie Tidhar is a little bit rock and roll.  

Written on 19th October 2021 by .

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