Monday 16 September 2013

Review: Ghost Hawk - Susan Cooper

Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper, published by Bodley Head on 29th August 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
On the winter day Little Hawk is sent into the woods alone, he can take only a bow and arrows, his handcrafted tomahawk, and the amazing metal knife his father traded for with the new white settlers. If Little Hawk survives three moons by himself, he will be a man.

John Wakely is only ten when his father dies, but he has already experienced the warmth and friendship of the nearby tribes. Yet his fellow colonists aren’t as accepting of the native people. When he is apprenticed to a barrel-maker, John sees how quickly the relationships between settlers and natives are deteriorating. His friendship with Little Hawk will put both boys in grave danger.

I picked up 'Ghost Hawk' when I was looking for something a little different to read.  I love historical fiction but I hadn't really read anything set in this particular period before.  Susan Cooper has woven an intricately plotted and fascinating account of the establishment of New England, charting the evolution of the Native American tribes who were living there at the time and the rise of the settlers who arrived to claim the land as their own.

The book is divided into four main parts.  It started extremely strongly with the story of Little Hawk who leaves his family to endure a solitary three months alone in the wilderness, learning how to survive with only a bow, axe and knife.  His courage and tenacity shine through as he begins the transition to manhood.  Huge challenges face him but Little Hawk always stays true to the principles that he was taught by his family. 

Little Hawk's people treat the land with great respect.  Their way of life has existed for hundreds of years but everything starts to change when settlers from England begin to arrive, including John, a young English boy. 

The end of part one was shocking and left me wondering how Susan Cooper was going to continue the story.  I think she made an extremely brave and unusual choice but one which elevated the plot to another level entirely.  The second half of the book deals more with the growing unease between the tribes and the English people who are unable to communicate properly with each other.  Their lives are also built on different foundations and the values they hold often mean that they come into conflict with each other. 

The whole book was entrancing and the authenticity of detail shone through from the start.  Susan Cooper's writing was captivating and I thoroughly enjoyed 'Ghost Hawk'.  This is a book which I would wholeheartedly recommend to other readers.    

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