Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book Review: Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw

Hawk of May (Down the Long Way 1)
First published in 1980 and now re-released by Sourcebooks Landmark,
Gillian Bradshaw’s Hawk of May begins the tale of Gwalchmai ap Lot.
Nephew of the legendary King Arthur, his mother is the evil sorceress
Morgawse.  As his father Lot and brother Agravain are warriors for the
family’s kingdom, it is quite expected that Gwalchmai would also become
a conqueror and defender himself.  Yet, he doesn’t have the inclination to
follow in his elders’ footsteps.  Feeling that he has no talent for battle, he
turns instead to the sorcery of his nefarious mother.  As he travels down
her path into Darkness, he is forced to choose between the Darkness
and the Light, both of which seem to be calling him.

Hawk of May is the first book in the Down the Long Wind trilogy.
Kingdom of Summer and In Winter’s Shadow are the following volumes.
This title refers to Gwalchmai, whose name is translated “Hawk of May”,
the name of a warrior. This first book in the trilogy follows Gwalchmai
from age 11 through young adulthood.

Hawk of May was enjoyable.  I liked the main character, who struggled
with his need to please his family, follow his own desires and yet make
honorable choices. During this portion of his life, he takes some amazing
journeys and grows in ways that many cannot understand.  The story is
filled with magical themes, but it also touches on motifs that Christians can
relate to.  Those who enjoyed Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings would enjoy this,
although it’s not quite as epic in scope.

As Bradshaw had two more volumes in which to tell her tale, she took her time
in developing Gwalchmai’s character.  By the same token, her development isn’t
laborious and filled with an overabundance of details.  I could have done without
some of the war histories that were intermittently presented, but that’s a minor
quibble. And given the amount of battles that occurred along the way, there
could have been many pages of blood and violence.  Bradshaw thankfully kept
these details of war at bay, when other authors might have used those moments
as an excuse to go on and on about the carnage.

While I wouldn’t label this story a Christian tale, as a believer I enjoyed the struggle
between good and evil, Light and Darkness.  Gwalchmai’s inner conflicts, insecurities,
 doubt and faith are things that resonated with me.  As the tale moves on to
Kingdom of Summer, I look forward to Gwalchmai’s continued journey and his
changing relationship with the iconic King Arthur.  This fantastical legend is a rich
one, and I’m enjoying Gillian Bradshaw’s presentation of it.

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