Greenwode by J. Tullos Hennig (The Wode #1)

Daring the old gods. Defying the new.

The making of a legend—and a truly innovative re-imagining of Robin Hood.

When Rob of Loxley finds an injured nobleman’s son in the forest, neither he nor his sister Marion understand what befriending young Gamelyn could mean for the future of their beliefs. Already the ancient spirits of the Old Religion are fading beneath the iron of nobleman’s politics and the stones of church subjugation. More, the druid elders warn that Rob and Gamelyn are cast as sworn adversaries, locked in timeless and symbolic struggle for the greenwood’s Maiden. 

Instead, in a theological twist only a stroppy dissident could envision, Rob swears he’ll defend the sacred woodland of the Horned God and Lady Huntress to his last breath if his god will let him be lover, not rival, to the one fated as his enemy. But in the eyes of Gamelyn’s Church, sodomy is evil... and the old pagan beliefs must be subjugated–or vanquished.

CONTRIBUTOR(S): Ross Pendleton (Narrator)
PUBLISHER: Forest Path Books
YEAR: 2013
LENGTH: 340 pages (17 hours 22 minutes)
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy, Historical, Romance

Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Secondary Character(s), Gay/Achillean Main Character(s), Bi/Pan Secondary Character(s), Closeted/Questioning Main Character(s).

GREENWODE is a queer and intricate retelling of Robin Hood's story, using the lesser-known character of Gamelyn as his rival (and perhaps lover), with Marion as his sister. Rob and Marion are of the Old Religion, something which manages to escape Gamelyn for a long time as he assumes, with a colonizer's confidence, that people he likes would of course believe the same things as him, even as reality shows that they do not. Rob and Marion are learning their roles from their parents, the current Hunter and Maiden. Their father is an important person in the Old Religion as well as having authority over the wood through the legal authorities. The antagonists who gradually (or not so gradually) become apparent end up driving much of the escalation of danger and distress, eager to stamp out the Old Religion by any means necessary, writing off any participants as tainted by evil. It doesn't matter to them that this includes almost everyone in the Greenwode, what matters is that they think God is on their side and that death is better than living in sin. 

The afterword describes GREENWODE as the beginning of a duology, but as of the time of this review there are five books in the series. Regardless, it is the first part of a story, and does a wonderful job of telling a complete tale while setting the stage for something deeply complex to follow on its heels. I grew up religious and had my own journey away from a descendent of Gamelyn's faith, complete with its rancid homophobia, misogyny, and distaste for other beliefs while holding up its own rituals as important and meaningful. This lent a degree of believability to Gamelyn's inner turmoil, as otherwise his back and forth over whether to just be a freely sexual being with someone who loves him seems strange and illogical. That's because it is illogical, you can't reason someone out of something they didn't reason themselves into, and Gamelyn didn't reason himself into homophobia. It was part and parcel of his intense devotion to God, a facet previously unspoken  woven into his foundational beliefs. For this part, Rob is bewildered by Gamelyn's internalized homophobia, as it clearly hurts him and Rob can't see anything helpful or meaningful in a religion that encourages someone to feel badly about things that are wonderful and good. I like Marion as sister to Rob while having her own friendship with Gamelyn that exists next to their relationship with each other. 

I love this and I'm eager to see how things develop. The ending manages to simultaneously close up things in a very satisfying way and set the stage for more to happen.

Graphic/Explicit CW for classism, homophobia, confinement, religious bigotry, sexual content, murder, death.

Moderate CW for sexism, misogyny, bullying, emotional abuse, physical abuse, alcohol, blood, violence, fire/fire injury, injury detail, genocide.

Minor CW for cursing, rape, pregnancy, medical content, medical trauma, parental death.

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