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Monday, April 21, 2014

Hawksmaid by Kathryn Lasky

Before she was Maid Marian, she was Matty....
Matty has been raised to dance well, embroider exquisitely, and marry nobly. But when Matty's mother is murdered before her very eyes and her father, a nobleman, is reduced to poverty, Matty's life changes.
As the daughter of Nottingham's most famous falconer, she finds a new destiny in the hawks her father keeps. She begins to understand their thoughts and even speak their language. The beautiful merlin Marigold becomes Matty's closest winged companion and her fiercest ally.
It is a treacherous time in England. The sheriff of Nottingham is rising to power, and a true king has been kidnapped. Determined to fight, Matty's friend Fynn becomes Robin Hood. As Maid Marian, Matty joins Fynn and his Merry Men, famously robbing from the rich to give to the poor.
Well, I am not going to lie to you; this is my least favorite Robin Hood tale. ‘Hawksmaid’ lacked grace, it seemed choppy and misfit. In one chapter Matty would be eight and the next she would be twelve then fourteen. In some chapters she would be called Matty, then Matilda, then Maid Marion: the changes were numerous and almost too much to handle. ‘Hawksmaid’ is supposedly the untold tale of Robin Hood and Maid Marion, but Robin Hood was not even the main focus of the book. It was mainly about Matty and her relationship with her father’s hawks. Matty had a special bond with the birds; she could directly communicate with them. Which would be fine, except the birds talk in quotes, as a result it took me an entire chapter to realize that Ulysses was a bird and not a person. Then at the end, there is a strange chapter were Matty ‘becomes’ the bird. I suppose the best word to use is ‘possess’. She possessed the bird. The book really rendered me speechless and for quite a while I didn’t know what to say about it. All in all, I think the book was just misguided. It would be more accurate to say the story was about Maid Marion and how she learned the art of hawking or about her special bond with hawks. Robin Hood isn’t totally irrelevant though. He is in the background doing things and occasionally he surfaces by including Matty in his schemes.

I would like to commend Kathryn Lasky on her excessive knowledge of birds. I believe she was just trying to convey her love of birds through her writings and show how smart birds can be. However, if you are looking for a Robin Hood story, this is not the book you should pick up.

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