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Sunday, October 18, 2009

'Hawksong' by Amelia ATWATER-RHODES


Danica Shardae is heir to the avian throne. A hawk shape shifter, ‘Dani’ has dealt with much tragedy in her 16 years. A war has been raging between the hawks and serpiente – snake shape shifters – for hundreds of years, so long that nobody can even remember the reasons behind the fighting. Dani has lost her father, grandparents, fiancee and recently her younger brother to this horrendous war.

Then one day the serpiente royal family, the Cobriana’s, suggest a temporary peace for negotiations. The ruby-eyed family put a proposition to Danica and her Queen mother – that Danica marry and form an alliance with serpiente heir, Zane Cobriana. Zane is the most fearsome serpiente warrior, it’s rumoured he can capture a soldier with his gaze and penetrate his mind, forcing him to slit his own throat on the battlefield before Zane gets within striking distance. Danica is terrified of the snake prince, but for her people and in the name of peace, she is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

This is the first book in Young Adult series ‘Kiesha'ra’ by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (published in 2003). I really loved the plot of ‘Hawksong’ – it’s a little bit of Romeo & Juliet, Beauty & the Beast and King Arthur. Rhodes has created a fanciful world and mixed in elements of well-known supernatural fables, but made them distinctly her own.

The major draw back of ‘Hawksong’ is that it feels like it should have been an adult book, rather than Young Adult. For one thing, I don’t know how much teenagers will empathize with the dilemma of a sixteen-year-old girl agreeing to an arranged marriage for the purpose of establishing political ties. The concept is just a little bit too complicated to be dealt with in a strictly PG-13 book. I think Rhodes missed out on a huge chunk of interesting plot by catering to a younger audience. I, personally, would have loved a nittier-grittier book that delved more into the reasons for the war, and any coup’s Danica and Zane’s marriage triggered.

‘Hawksong’ being a YA book also forced the Danica/Zane romance to be stilted. Zane is 18 to Danica’s 16, and Rhodes makes mention of Zane having a lover at the time he agrees to marry Danica. Zane is a thoroughly interesting character – we see flashes of his darker warrior side, and on more than one occasion he admits to lusting after Danica. Such revelations would have been far more interesting and fulfilling if this hadn’t been a self-conscious YA book and we could have seen Zane act on those instincts. I’m not saying I would have appreciated erotica smut – but reading the Danica/Zane exchanges, it becomes increasingly obvious that there is sexual tension that the novel’s genre doesn’t allow proper exploration of. Which is beyond disappointing.

‘Hawksong’ does feel too short, at a mere 256 pages. And the ending was so abrupt that I intend to read the second book, ‘Snakecharm’, if only in hopes of a more satisfactory conclusion to Danica & Zane’s story.

The book was so-so for me. I think Rhodes really limited herself by writing for the YA audience, I think if she’d gone for an adult readership it would have allowed more exploration of the character’s emotions and the interesting political plot.

2/5

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