Next up:”Hawksong” by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes.
Ms. Atwater-Rhodes was (at the time of publishing) a pretty young author– she was 19 when Hawksong came out. In some ways, this fact is evident in the Romeo and Juliet-esque plot and the relatively simplistic writing. Still, I like this book.
The plot is a sort of mash-up of the Romeo and Juliet “Feuding Families” trope and an arranged marriage “Marriage Before Romance” trope. The two main characters (depicted on the bookcover) are members of two societies that are at war with each other. Danica Shardae, the young woman, is the daughter of the leader of her people, the Avians. She is able to take the form of a hawk, as well as a human. Zane Cobriana, the young man, is son of the leaders of the Serpiente. He can switch between human and cobra forms. Their two peoples, the Avians and the Serpiente, have already been at war for many years as the book begins. The terrible war of attrition has decimated both societies and both are desperate for peace. Just exactly how that peace is achieved differs from person to person. There is a lot of bad blood between the Avians and the Serpiente (unsurprising after so long at war), and some people want peace to come only with the complete and utter destruction of the other race. Which makes things a little difficult when it is decided that a new peace treaty will be accompanied by the marriage of Danica and Zane. The book follows the difficulties the two young people face as they try to promote peace and understanding between their very different societies, all the while trying to figure out their new relationship.
I liked that Zane and Danica don’t just fall into each others’ arms. The growth of their relationship seems well-paced. I also really love the shapeshifting element; it happens to be one of my favorite tropes in fantasy novels. A war between hawks and serpents is also amusing to me because hawks often eat snakes in nature, so the rivalry makes sense. I liked the tension that continued to run between the two races all throughout the book; after so long at war the mix of people who wanted reconciliation and those who were still angry and bitter was believable. The societies of bird-people and snake-people also were well formed in that they had characteristics that I could connect to traits I know of their animal counterparts.
As I said before, the author was rather young when she wrote this, and it shows in some respects. The plot is quite straight-forward and leans on some common tropes among the young adult crowd. The prose is simple and an easy read. World-building is minimal. Nevertheless, it told a story that I enjoyed, enough to have kept this book on my shelves for the last 13 years.
There are evidently sequels to this book, but I have not read them.
Very brief discussion of rape in the abstract, regarding the punishment of rapists in Serpiente society (anyone accused is killed outright– the explanation being that it’s seen as better to let an innocent person die than a rapist go free).