This weekend sort of crept up on me. I knew it was Saturday but forgot that I should be doing something special – specifically whooping about a particularly good book on my recently read list.
Better late than never, eh?
My choice this week is the first part of a 2 novel story that won Best LGBT Novel in the 2014 Rainbow Awards – Greenwode by J Tullos-Hennig.
I’m only halfway through the story – the other half is in Shirewode – but I am very impressed with it.
The premise is that in 12th century England the Norman conquerors were still trying to impose their punitive Christian religion on the Saxon populance, most of whom had embraced it. However in isolated pockets the Old Religion worshipping the Holly, Oak and Ivy, The Lady, the Hunter, Maiden and Mother and all the other trappings of what we infer about pre-Christian Celtic religion. The Old Religion is viewed with hatred by the Christians and its practitioners are persecuted. There is also more conflict between the privileged nobility and their serfs, who are treated, or mistreated, as chattels little better than animals.
Enter Gamelyn Boundys, third son of the lord of Blyth, bullied by his brother and out of step with all around him. Rescued from the forest by Rob, a forester’s son and befriended by Rob’s family, Adam the forester, Eluned the wise woman and fiery Marion, Rob’s older sister, Gamelyn soon feels more at home with his inferiors than he does at home. Soon his hero wrship for Rob eges into something more setting up uge conflict as he blames Rob for drawing him into a deadly sin.
Rob too is conflicted. More worldly that Gamelyn he knows that he’s probably only something to do and that falling in love with Gamelyn would be a recipe for disaster even if Gamelyn wasn’t bound for the priesthood and rob hadn’t been dedicated to the Old Religion as the next Hunter.
This is a very complicated story. There are story threads to do with both religions, relationships between members of families, between Rob and Gamelyn, Gamelyn and Marion and conflict at every turn. Layer upon layer of danger is added and I sincerely advise you to buy Shirewode at the same time as you buy Greenwode or you run the risk of being left to grind your teeth unless you can get the other half of the story.
Let’s just say that Greenwode ends on a considerable cliff hanger.
I’ve seen a few criticisms that the story is hard to follow and I can’t deny that it is, but to anyone who was a follower of the Robin of Sherwood series in the early 80s the religious aspect is familiar and there are some lovely tender moments between Rob and Gamelyn.