The Tempest: A Guy of Gisborne Story
For the first half of the book, I was very happy. This book is good, says I. This story rocks, thinks I. This author takes a beloved legend, turns it on its head, and makes it positively great, goes I. But then after a fantabulous first half, the book falls to pieces.
The Tempest is Guy of Gisborne’s redemption. In Ms. Hawkins’ version of the Robin Hood legend, Guy of Gisborne is a killer, the vile henchman of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Inside, however, is a good man who could have been redeemed by the love of a good woman, and Guy was engaged to his beloved Maid Marian. However, she left him at the altar and later killed herself, and heartbroken, mistrustful of women, Guy continued on his rampages.
Everything changes when Guy breaks his leg and lands on the doorstep of Cassia DeWarren, a peasant widow. Cassia has her own reasons for not buying into the legend of Robin Hood, Maid Marian, and King Richard, and has always believed in Guy’s spark of goodness. As Guy’s leg heals, so does his attitude change, and he slowly learns to be a better person.
Up to this point, the book is fan-bloody-tastic. There’s no mucking around Guy’s past – he was a bad guy all right – and Ms. Hawkins convincingly demonstrates his capacity for goodness without whitewashing his past. And the interactions between him and Cassia are great. Cassia reforms Guy, but there’s no trace of the martyr in her behaviour. Instead, I believed in her motives and Guy’s transformation. And Cassia is a lovely, spirited heroine who doesn’t take an ounce of crap from him. Guy and Cassia’s story is gut-wrenching, heart-warming, passionate, and believable.
And then the book sputters, flails about, and limps along for the last quarter like a poisoned possum. We have uncharacteristic behaviour. We have serious bouts of mushiness. We have lots of boring vanilla sex that loses flavour real quick. And we also have one humungous Romeo-and-Juliet moment towards the end that strikes me as crazily over the top.
To top it off, we also have an issue of historical credibility. In the first half, Ms. Hawkins writes sparingly, convincingly, and, although she doesn’t shy away from anachronisms, they are bearable. I thought she struck the perfect balance between Medievalisms and comprehension. However, the scales slowly tip the other way after the mid-book crisis, and the last straw comes at the marriage service, which begins as “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here…” and which could have come straight from BBC’s Pride and Prejudice. I don’t know jack about Christian marriage services in 1193, but I do know that the one quoted at considerable length in The Tempest comes from the good old Anglican Book of Common Prayer, and could not possibly have been in existence in the 12th century, and which a complete neophyte (me) verified in fifteen minutes over the internet. This is damned shoddy work.
So although I really wanted to recommend The Tempest, I can’t. Ms. Hawkins has a lot of talent, and I can only hope that future books will demonstrate more economy of prose and less economy of facts.