Friday, February 4, 2011

Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.
I have been wanting to participate in Angie's meme for a while now but I was never sure what book to start off with. I browsed through my shelves and when my eyes lit upon my treasured copy of Hawksong, I knew I had found the right book to begin with. Here's the summary from goodreads:

Danica Shardae is an avian shapeshifter, and the golden hawk’s form in which she takes to the sky is as natural to her as the human one that graces her on land. The only thing more familiar to her is war: It has raged between her people and the serpiente for so long, no one can remember how the fighting began. As heir to the avian throne, Danica will do anything in her power to stop the bloodshed–even accept Zane Cobriana, the terrifying leader of her kind’s greatest enemy, as her pair bond and make the two royal families one. Now Danica must convince her people that Zane is just as committed to peace as she is–though she can’t help fearing that, despite his word, he will strike as swiftly and lethally as the cobra that is his second form. Among the serpiente, she’ll have to pretend to be in love, though when they’re alone, her reserve threatens to keep her and Zane worlds apart. And in their midst are dissenters who will do whatever it takes to destroy this union. Trust. It is all Zane asks of Danica–and all they ask of their people–but it may be more than she can give.

Some backstory: I was around 11 or 12 when I came across this book for the first time. I was shopping with my mother in one of those cheap stores where you can buy everything for a dollar or less and lots of time I would wander the aisles while my mother bought whatever she needed for a quick fix or whatnot. I found a bin of books and after rooting around, I pulled out a small hardcover with a cool-sounding title: Hawksong. At this age, I wasn't too familiar with YA so the premise of the book seemed really appealing. So I begged my mother to buy it for me and she did, knowing that I'd pester her forever if she didn't. I never imagined that I'd love this book so much and now, seven years since that moment, my love has never wavered.

Hawksong is narrated through Danica's point of view and as the remaining heir to the throne, she has to assume responsibility for her people as the new queen; but unlike many monarchs, Danica is very much aware of the emotional and physical destruction that the war had brought on her people. Zane Cobriana, future king to the Serpiente and mortal enemy to her kind, also wishes to call a truce and together they decide to tie their royal families together, ending the war once and for all. Danica and Zane both want the same things but since they were taught to hate each other since birth, their union proves to be rocky at first.

"I came here to talk about peace, not to receive threats."

"I gave you my word you would be safe if you accepted my invitation," Zane assured me, not rising from his seat, as if attempting the impossible feat of appearing harmless. "If you turned around right now and left, neither my guard nor I would stop you."

"And afterward?"

Zane closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them again his expression was as remote as the morning star. "I hope we can end this war with peace, not a bloodbath," he answered. "I've reached the point where I honestly thing I would slit my own wrists if I thought it would end the fighting. Unfortunately, the palace guard would not react well to losing its last prince, and again we would have a slaughter on our hands." He shook his head and finished bluntly, " You are an attractive woman, Danica, but I do not love you. I do not think I ever can. I look into your golden hawk's eyes, and no matter how stunning the form they occupy I think only of your warriors killing my loved ones. Since you recoil every time you accidently find your own gaze fallen upon the Cobriana garnet, I suspect you feel much the same way." -pg 102

The writing in this book is so eloquent. I'm a sucker for pretty writing and Hawksong is no exception. There's danger, political intrigue, forbidden romance.... oh yes, there's romance. Zane and Danica have their romantic entanglements to weave through (even though they're married to each other) and seeing them sacrifice their personal lives for their people in the hopes of restoring peace was moving. They come from different worlds but are inherently the same: honorable, valiant and wise. As time goes by, their initial mistrust of each other turns into gradual respect and admiration for each other...and some other feelings.

But what really made me love this book (besides the fantastical elements-shapeshifters! Assasination attempts!) was how Danica and Zane learn to fully trust each other, that their initially shaky alliance became something unbreakable and that they cemented their two kingdoms together so they can rewrite history and end the misery that's been plaguing their people for centuries.

Also, I found Zane to be amazing. This scene kind of backs up why he still continues to be one of my favorite male characters (although there are tons of scenes but I particularly like this one):
"But, sir, she's Danice Shardae!" the poor man protested!

"I just said that," Zane responded, refusing to be ruffled.

"Zane." In contrast to his easily projected voice, mine was soft, intended only for Zane's ears. He turned to face me, ignoring for the moment the serpiente he had been in the process of turning into a fool. "You can't expect everyone to just accept this."

"Of course not," he responded softly, lowering his head so his lips were just a short distance above mine. He had wrapped his arms around my waist, and it suddenly occurred to me what our pair must look like to the court. "But I can expect everyone to pretend to." -pg 127.    

Sigh. If that doesn't make you at least a little bit curious to pick up the book..... then I don't know what will! Hawksong is a beautiful novel and I'm so glad that I read it at such a young age. It made me realize how words could be strung together to create lyrical, lucious prose... Amelia Awater-Rhodes' book was one of the first official young adult books that I read, introducing me into a new genre that I have yet to get sick of. Hawksong holds a special place in my bookshelf (and my heart).

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