Gemmell mixes heroic fantasy with the rupture of time travel. Review by S.K. Slevinski
The Hawk Eternal is a smart heroic fantasy that spices up its "battles and swords" action with the chaos of time travel and manipulation.
David Gemmell tells the story of a group of clansmen, part-highlander, part-Norse, in their struggle against a warlike clan bent on their destruction. What they don't know, however, is that this clan of warriors, the Aenir, have come through the Gates of time to plague them. The only way to save their clan is with the return of the Hawk Queen, a powerful leader who has been pulled in and out of time in endless attempts to head off the Aenir's destruction. The Druids who know the secrets of operating these Gates of time, have made numerous attempts to bring her to the Aenir battle, all of which have ended in failure, creating a chaos of repercussions through time, altering events and realities. Soon after the clansmen first meet the Hawk Queen, she dies in the twilight of her life, promising to return as a younger, more powerful leader. But it will depend on the Druids, who must play with the weave of time to get her there.
The basic plot of this story—the battle of warring clansmen—is a simple one. And I think necessarily so. The overarching conflict with the Aenir is plotted purposefully and directly to keep the reader grounded despite the tangle of time jumping. Gemmell shows skill in conveying the sense of chaos created by the time manipulations of the Druids, while not unnecessarily confounding the reader with its enormity or complexity. The linear line of the clansmen story provides a useful frame for the time jumping of the Druids. While the conceptual tale-spinning of this story is skillfully done, I was disappointed in the characters. Gemmell follows a handful of clan members as the main protagonists and viewpoint characters of this story. And while they deliver that story well, they don't to do much more. They are not stock characters or cliches per se, but rather fantasy "standards". I kept hoping to see them move beyond the standard, but I did not ultimately get the dimension I was looking for. This story is ultimately plot- and concept-based.
I believe that most fantasy fans will enjoy this book. It is well written and inventive. It is not, unfortunately, an occasion to get engaged in intriguing characters.
S.K. Slevinski is senior editor for ARWZ Literary Magazine and a long time reader of alternative reality fiction. She is currently a graduate student, specializing in folklore.