Monday, May 30, 2016

Ghost Hawk (Susan Cooper)

Ghost Hawk
Susan Cooper
McElderry Books
Fiction, YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: When eleven-year-old Little Hawk set out on his three-month ordeal of manhood, as countless generations of Pokanokets had done before him, he took with him a bow and arrow of his own making, a tomahawk from his father, and a metal knife from the white men. Like all children in the village, he'd heard of the pale-skinned visitors, but never seen them. They were a distant curiosity, another market for cured hides, and nothing more.
Little Hawk never dreamed that, one day, a white man's musket ball would kill him.
As the worlds of Englishman and native mingle and clash, Little Hawk's earthbound spirit follows the fate of his people and of the Puritan-born boy John Wakeley, who witnessed his murder. In life, they had met only briefly, but the bonds of friendship and hope transcend death itself, even as misunderstandings, fear, and anger threaten to destroy everything and everyone they ever loved.

REVIEW: It may seem odd to list a Fantasy as Historical Fiction, but the fantastic elements are largely a method to examine the real-life culture clash of 1600's New England. Intertribal conflicts predate European colonization, but the arrival of the Pilgrims and other colonists bring disease, danger, and the ultimate poison of a mindset so rigid and alien it defied native comprehension. Thus begins a slow-motion disaster that would eventually rob them of their culture, land, and (all too often) life. Little Hawk and John give human faces to history. As the native tribes are not monolithic entities, viewing the future and each other with uniform outlooks, neither are the colonists. John in particular learns the danger of seemingly simple ideas when expressed in the wrong place and time. Who are the bad guys, and what's the right way forward? It's not always so easy to define at the personal level, as history's lessons are lost on each successive generation. The story drifts occasionally, but it generally strikes a decent balance between history lesson and plot development, delivering some wrenching and beautiful moments. It can't help but be depressing at several points, though there are hints of hope. All in all, it's a decent and memorable tale.

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