Reviewed by Ian Lipke
Lionhearts opens with England in dire need of a king. But Richard 1, the Lionheart, has been captured while on Crusade and is held fast in Austria pending payment of a ransom. To raise the money needed to bring him home, every lord has increased taxes and the common people are hurting. To make matters worse, the French think they want the empty throne, and a man, who called himself Robin Hood is allegedly dead but has spawned numerous other Robin Hoods. The story has him leading outlaws in Sherwood forest, raiding guard posts, and committing crimes to protest unduly high taxation. But he appears also in the slums of Nottingham where he carries out unspeakable acts of violence against the city’s poor.
Whoever Robin Hood might be, he is an idea, a debating focus, nothing like Robin Locksley, the original Hood, whom the Sheriff of Nottingham claims to have executed.
I’m sure that Nathan Makaryk planned his book with a certain audience in mind. I haven’t identified whom his readers might be. One suggestion is that followers of Game of Thrones would lap this story up like some single-minded cat. That’s possible. But G of T fans have long lost interest in the series, their brains having been overindulged by a plethora of strange beasts and stranger human beings. A major difference that does not work in Lionheart’s favour is that people today are vision cranks. They watch rather than read.
It would be refreshing to believe that parents might show interest enough to forbid the reading of this book by their adolescent offspring. But that hope is sure to be defeated by a lack of parental interest in what young people read. Hence, a passage such as the following is likely to be enjoyed and followed:
Fuck the slums and fuck the stink and fuck the shit and fuck the this.
Every left foot was a fuck, every right foot was a thing worth fucking, and fuck by thing, Arthur made another pass around the Spotted Leopard. It was a whorehouse… (172).
Foul language is not the book’s main sin. I struggled through 180 pages before giving up. So many characters appear that it becomes difficult to distinguish them, let alone sort out what they are supposed to be doing. What plot there is consists of strands that appear from nowhere and seem to be heading nowhere I could identify. Whatever it is that is happening, it is accompanied by strange diversions and odd acts of characters with even stranger motives. Always present are the foulmouthed beings who argue incessantly over trivia. Most readers, I believe, would be frustrated with the inanity of discourse.
I like to find something positive to say. I can’t. I ceased to bother.
By Nathan Makaryk
$32.99; 560 pp