HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Blue Hawk
Author: Peter Dickinson
Cover Illustrator: Michael Herring
Publisher: Open Road Media Teen & Tween, reprinted 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0316184298 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0316184292 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-1504014939 Paperback
ISBN-10: 1504014936 Paperback
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 12-16 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Dickinson, Peter. The Blue Hawk (published in 1976 by Little Brown and Company; republished in 1977 by Del Rey Books, an imprint of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House Inc., New York City, NY). Thirteen year old Tron lives in a fantasy desert kingdom similar to ancient Egypt. All his life, the boy has been destined to join the priesthood who control the kingdom. When the old king grows sick the sacrifice of a blue hawk, the symbol of the god Gdu, is called for to restore his health. For the first time, Tron is allowed to take part in the ritual, but just before the bird is sacrificed, the young priest notices that its eyes are cloudy with sickness, so he steals the bird away and the king dies. The priests are enraged at his disruption of the ritual, but they give him three months to train the wild bird-three months to save its life and rescue the kingdom from the wrath of the gods—’O’ for the sun, “Aa” for the moon (and death), and “Gdu” for the Blue Hawk (and healing).
However, the harvests are failing. There is great tension between the conservative priesthood and the new king who wants to make changes. And the threat of invasion by the strange Mohirrim has arisen. Tron is in a position to help, but the priests want to do nothing, thinking the gods will save them, while the king wishes to fight the invaders with an army. What does the king think of the young priest whose actions resulted in his father’s death? Who will win the tug of war between priests and king? Can the enemy be stopped? And what happens to the hawk? Author Peter Dickinson has written fiction of various kinds for children and adults. He was shortlisted nine times for the prestigious Carnegie Medal for children’s literature and was the first author to win it twice. This one won The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.
Some have called The Blue Hawk the best of the Peter Dickinson juveniles, a fantasy that is both more subtle and less predictable. Others say that while it may be ostensibly aimed at children it is worthy of adult attention. Still others claim that it really is metaphysical rather than a fantasy, the story of an inner quest with the message that life isn’t static and that rituals need reworking from time to time. I found the book well-written and quite readable. It is certainly full of excitement, adventure, mystery, and suspense, with nothing objectionable, though there are a few references to making and drinking beer. One reviewer noted that the description of the hero’s journey down the River while hidden in the coffin of the old king is a high point. I liked it and think that anyone who enjoys fantasy will appreciate it.